In 2013, the Federal Government developed a 5-year Broadband strategy to drive internet and Broadband Penetration to 30% by 2018 —achieving this would boost Nigeria’s GDP by at least 1.38%. We currently have six months to the end of 2018 and Nigeria is still ‘said’ to be around 22% of broadband penetration with only 38,000 kilometers of fibre. As a matter of fact, In 2017, Nigeria was ranked among countries with the lowest broadband penetration in the world — out of the 196 member states in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Nigeria ranked 129 with 21.8% mobile broadband subscription, and 0.1 for its fixed broadband subscription:
One of the things that has been blamed for the slow pace is Right of Way (RoW).
For a bit of background knowledge, RoW is generally used in the telecommunications industry to denote the land on which telecom companies may lay their telecom infrastructures including fibre optic cables. In the past years, operators have blamed difficulty in getting Right of Way approvals from state governments for the slow pace of cable deployment. Apparently, some states are charging as high as N25,000 per meter of fibre for ROW which is a lot higher than the National Economic Council (NEC) recommendation of N145 per meter fee for Right of Way across states.
However, there has been an emergency intervention program to deploy 18,000 kilometres of fibre cable in some states of the federation before the end of 2018, and this has prompted the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to meet with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) where he made a presentation to the Governors on the issue of Right of Way and appealed to them to understand the necessity of the new initiative of laying fibre
While this is all fine and dandy, we need the Government to talk less and do more.
In developed countries, every home has access to high-speed broadband service via mostly Fibre optic cable and copper lines, unfortunately, the same cannot be said about developing countries like ours. If we really want more broadband penetration, let’s start by not making it so hard to build. So, here’s my take, the State governments should all reach a consensus regarding the RoW fee, one that is not higher than the recommended. On second thought, I think the RoW fees should be converted to a form of tax that could be paid by Telcos when their investments start yielding returns.