By Emeka Aginam & Emma Elebeke
To accelerate the pace of broadband infrastructure rollout across the nation, the Broadband Council at its regular quarterly meeting held last week in Abuja has called for other States yet to join to do so. Already, Bayelsa, Ondo, Katsina, FCT, Lagos and Cross Rivers State have signed on the smart state initiate while Anambra, Delta, Gombe and Osun State have agreed to become Smart States.
Accordingly, Council reiterated that the Smart States initiative geared at engaging authorities at the state and local government level to address the issue of multiple taxations would accelerate the roll out of critical infrastructure across Nigeria and help Nigeria meet its broadband target of a five -fold increase by 2017.
Reviewing the progress on the Ministry’s Smart State initiative aimed at getting concessions from State governments (right of way reductions, standardization on levies and charges on telco infrastructure), the Council commended States that had signed the MoU on the Smart State Initiative with the Ministry of Communications Technology.
In recognition of the crucial role broadband plays in inclusive development and in a bid to increase awareness and drive demand, the Council acknowledged the work of online market spaces in encouraging SMEs to bring their products/services online and urged SMEDAN to fund or drive an awareness campaign that will get many more SMES online.
Recalling that the Broadband Council at its 4th meeting pushed for increased 3G coverage to 50% of the Nigerian population by the end of 2015, the Council commended the USPF for the timely completion of its ICT Access Gap Study and concluded this would further help operators to service latent demand. Council stressed that the significant work by the USPF has given real empirical data to the issue of which areas of the country have connectivity.
The Council members scored overall progress as good but needing acceleration on items such as pricing and metro fibre. Following the recent announcement of the Infraco License winners the NCC’s work on Wholesale and Cost Based Pricing to improve the affordability of access to the internet would soon be available. Council concluded that progress was still too slow and challenged the ICT industry to see to it that the broadband plan targets were met.
The Broadband Council inaugurated on the 16th of July 2013 is made up of 19 members chaired by Dr Omobola Johnson.