— LTA says “we did not ask them to increase or decrease the number of minutes”
Authorities at the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) are yet to provide concrete reasons for what it calls the ‘slight adjustment’ in telecommunications rate, particularly on voice on-net calls and mobile data services.
Appearing as guest on Prime FM on Friday morning, April 2, 2021, the LTA Commissioner, Edwina Crump Zackpah, said the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is now driving all the other sectors in the world and as such, it is important to invest in it as it strives to meet the demand of the people.
The LTA Commissioner said the sector’s revenue stream was diminishing, decreasing every year, and “what that means is for us as government is to find a solution that will benefit all the parties involved.”
Commissioner Zackpah said in her wisdom, it best to implement a floor price as it is with many countries to regularize and stabilize the situation when they are having a price floor.
It may be recalled that last week, the LTA and the Mobile Network Operators (Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange) agreed to a minimum regulatory fee instead of a surcharge. In an SMS blast on April 1, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) told their customers that the MNOs and the LTA “have agreed to a new regulatory fee that will slightly reduce the volume of some of our data and voice bundles, beginning April 1st, 2021.”
The message to customers did not say what the regulatory fee would be or by how much the volume of the data and voice bundles would be reduced.
“Thankfully, the telephone companies are now thanking the LTA for implementing it (price floor) because they both are enjoying the benefit of the floor price, simply because extra income is being generated,” she said.
Madam Zackpah added, “If you noticed there was a surcharge that was to be implemented, it was simply from the gains of the floor price—the extra income that the telephone companies benefited from, we’ll give right back to government to improve the economy.”
Initially, she said, the telephone companies rejected that first request and you saw what happened; that was yesterday and we don’t want to repeat that.
Madam Zackpah said, “For this new regulation, we did proper consultation together and even came up with a press statement — this is why no hauling and pulling. Honestly, we think it is in the best interest of everybody, including the consumers.
“Outside of the LTA,” she said, “our job to the public is to make sure that they receive all the benefit they can as required by international best practices and standards for the telecom sector.”
Also on the minimum re-charge, Madam Zackpah said, LTA does not really regulate the service provider packages. Each telephone service provider has the right to regulate their packages but was it meant to even change their packages? There was a small regulatory fee increase. It didn’t have to because LTA did not ask them to increase or decrease the number of minutes.
She further said that the reduction in minutes was done at the telephone companies’ own discretion and business model that they choose to but, “I believe what I see is they reduced the 45 minutes to 42 minutes, and I think it is consistent for both companies.”
The three-minute reduction in the US$1 voice package really means that the price of that package has increased by about 6.7 percent.
Madam Zackpah said on the minimum recharge, the public is expected to see the great benefit from the minutes that were reduced.
However, Liberians in their numbers took to the social and traditional media to express their disgust over the move by the government as implemented by the GSM companies.
In this Information Age, when young people around the world are using the internet to access education, share their talents, market their products, connect and engage with each other, as well as manage and improve business performance, the Liberian government has chosen to implement volume reduction per dollar for voice and data services, after having previously doubled data and tripled voice rates.
Many believe the move is shortsighted at so many levels, and it shows the extremely predatory approach taken by the government toward fiscal policy in the country.