Anti-competition regulations to affect ISPS too

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Last week, Kenya’s ICT community discussions were dominated by the anti-competition rules, published by the Communications Commission a week earlier. The regulations targeted at dominant players in the communications market and their pricing structure.

Immediately the rules were published, Safaricom jumped to the defense, buying a full page advert condemning the action taken by CCK. The following day, other mobile players ganged up and bought a full page ad, congratulating CCK for leveling the playing field.

To an ordinary person, it may appear like the regulations were all about Safaricom and the other mobile services market players. But read the regulations and you will get that they go beyond.

For those who may know the ISP field, there has been complaints about some big companies that own the infrastructure, which they lease to other ISPs, the same giant companies have smaller companies which they use to access the end user market.

Take for instance KDN, it leases local loop to other smaller ISPs, sells service on Wimax and they also sell the butterfly service to the consumer market. If you are a smaller ISP buying the service from KDN, how will you make money while they access the same consumer market and can sell at a bargain?

The impression created by the mobile service providers is that interconnection applies to voice services; what about data and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP); we know some ISPs provide free on net VoIP calls but that doesn’t help because calling someone in another ISPs is either impossible or too expensive.

What about ISPs that want to connect to mobile, the way Skype operates? That also has an element of interconnectivity and there must be some rule governing how that will be done.

Yes, Safaricom may have the most to loose but the way discussions are going reminds me of the Kenya Communications (amendment) act and how the media made it look like the whole act was all about the media.

If the rules are looked at broadly, we will see that even South Africa, Nigeria, among other countries are facing similar predicaments. If anything, the complaint has always been that the government has not been quick to develop rules; in this case, it seems to have pre-empted the market complaints (read the South African case).