Former President John Dramani Mahama has noted that Ghanaians are paying more for internet service in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak because the government has failed to negotiate with the telecom companies.
Mr Mahama in a statement on Wednesday April 15 said : “At this point, Government has not yet addressed the need to negotiate with the Telcos for a reduction in their tariffs to benefit the millions spending longer hours online and making calls.
“As I speak, several students and pupils are having lectures and school sessions online because of the Coronavirus disease. This has drastically increased their expenditure on internet usage to the extent that some can no longer cope. Indeed, there have been reports of several students who are unable to complete online lectures before their ‘data’ run out. Several people are also working from home.
“Due to these pressing needs, I wish to bring the issue of cost of internet and voice services back as another priority policy agenda. I have already suggested that government can assure the Telcos of a free six (6) months extension of licenses – some of which are to expire very soon. This value can be applied to cushion consumers during this 3-month period.
“Additionally, the Telcos can also be compensated with funds from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC), which already has the mandate to ensure universal access to telecommunication. Furthermore, the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) should leverage its robust broadband infrastructure – 4G cell sites and optic fibre cables, a lot of which were deployed during my time – to meet the increased demand for wireless and fixed broadband in these COVID-19 times.
“ The removal of the 50% increase in the CST will provide further relief for the many who are having to work or stay at home at this time.
“Even though water tariffs have been absorbed for the next three months, there have been loud complaints of interruptions in the supply of treated water through pipes and / or water tankers. I urge government to redouble its efforts in this sector in order to give meaning to the campaign for regular handwashing with soap under running water.”
He added that : “A further measure, which would go a long way to cushion SMEs and individual Ghanaian families, would be for the Bank of Ghana to open a dialogue with the banks and financial institutions to offer a 3-month moratorium on payment of debts to borrowers.
“I understand one bank has already voluntarily announced such a concession. This will be helpful at a time many Ghanaian businesses are shut and breadwinners of families have had to stay at home and cannot earn an income.”