At a PPD (Public Private Dialogue) forum held at the Bintumani Conference Hall in Freetown yesterday, representatives of telecommunications consumer groups agreed with mobile operators to effect a slight increase in their tariffs pending the improvement of quality of service.
The forum which was organized by the telecommunications regulators (NATCOM), was attended by representatives of service providers (mobile operators and ISPs), civil society groups, the Consumer Protection Agency, Motor Drivers Union, Petty Traders, Ataya Base Union, Market Women’s Association and members of the Forth Estate.
In his address, a member of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information and Communications who also doubles as the former Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo noted that, telecoms operators face a lot of challenges in their day-to-day operations.
He highlighted the poor infrastructure in the country, high cost of fuel, foreign exchange fluctuations, over taxation and lack of regular electricity supply as some of the challenges that telecoms operators face in the country.
Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said that, consumers also deserve value for money. He therefore called on service providers to improve the quality of their service across the country.
The CEO of Africell, the MD of Airtel, the MD of SIERRATEL and a representative of IPTEL pleaded with consumers to show understanding and allow them to adjust their tariffs slightly upward in order for them to continue to stay in business.
At the end of the one-day interactive dialogue, it was unanimously agreed that, the telecoms operators increase their tariffs slightly but on condition that they improve the quality of their service (voice and data) within a period of one hundred and twenty days.
It was also agreed that, a joint committee be set up, consisting of NATCOM officials and consumer representatives to monitor the implementation of the joint communiqué.
The committee was also tasked with the responsibility of monitoring the quality of service provided by telecoms operators.
The Chairman of NATCOM, Momoh Konte defined the role of his commission as being a regulatory one. He said that, NATCOM was established to protect the interest of both consumers and telecoms operators.
The last time any tariff increment was made by telecoms operators was in 2010.