Bill Seeks to Force Operators to Serve Remote Areas in Kenya and Massive Changes in USF Use

The Kenya Information and Communication Bill

The Kenya Information and Communication BillYesterday, we were apprised of the developments of the amendments of the Kenya Information and Communications Bill, 2019. The first hearings were carried out under the leadership of MP Elisha Odhiambo. Specifically, the 20th part of the bill seeks to see the registration of bloggers under a framework that will be developed by the Communications Authority (CA) and licensing of social media admins, whereas No 61 of the same bill purposes to amend Cap 411A to ‘enable people operating telecoms systems, or those providing a telecoms service to engage in another business and provide for the separation of such other business from the telecoms business.’

Similar to No 20 that wants online use cases regulated, the current amendment intends to create a similar structure for such businesses as the suggested changes provide for reporting by the CA in line with the proposed clauses and punishment for non-compliance. Moreover, the amendment seeks to tame anti-competitive practices by large players in the telecoms industry.

A couple of days ago, the CA made a call to mobile operators to improve service delivery to remote and underserved areas. This bill seeks to bolster the request as it aims to amend stipulations of the Kenya Information and Communications Act to compel operators to erect their towers, among other facilities that will then guarantee quality of service for people making phone calls in affected parts.

Furthermore, the bill suggests that the use of the universal service fund (USF) kitty is not being used optimally, hence the need to amend section 84J of the Act to improve its management by the CA by expanding the scope and objectives of the funds, and tasking the Authority to report how the funds are used on a yearly basis. Lastly, the CA will be asked to state the formula used for the distribution of the Fund.