Lack of legal framework makes it hard to seek recourse for internet outage-Somali government

Fibre-Optic-Cable-National-Broadband-Network. Image: Datatalk

The absence of a law regulating the telecommunications industry could make it difficult for Somalis to seek compensation following the three weeks internet outage in most parts of the country which the government estimates could cost the country upwards of $200 million.

In a statement Monday following the resumption of internet services after 23 days, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said Parliament must endevour to pass the National Communications Law to cushion consumers of internet services in the event of outage and provide legal recourse.
“There is greater need than ever for the Parliament to pass the National Communication Law that has been submitted to the Parliament on 10 July 2017 after the Cabinet approved it on 22 June 2017,” the ministry said.

“The Law would have protected the interests of consumers, telecommunication companies, other companies as well as the public sector who would have clear legal recourse through the Law to recover damages and/or levy fines on telecommunication companies who didn’t meet their legal commitment.”

Posts and Telecommunication minister Abdi Anshuur said last week the country was losing $10 million a day as a result of the internet outage which was attributed to a damage of the fibre optic cable by a ship in Somali waters of the Indian Ocean.
The National Communication Bill which was recently submitted to Parliament but yet to be debated sets out a regulatory framework on the telecommunications and internet sector. It proposes the creation of a National Communications Authority which will among others act in public interest to protect consumers of telecommunications services.

Article 32 notes the National Communication Authority will provide the forum through which telecommunications companies, interested parties (customers and the public) will engage and that the authority will take necessary decisions based on complaints.
The Authority will also provide appellate services for aggrieved parties.

The government has also made it mandatory for telecommunication service providers to provide backup and failover methods for their services to minimize the impact of outage. The absence of other providers has made the country vulnerable to adverse effects of internet outage, the government said. To address this, the government has called on investors to invest in other cable systems to cushion consumers from a total cut off as experienced in the past three weeks.

“This unfortunate outage clearly demonstrated how the pervasiveness of usage and the critical nature of the Internet for the country’s economic and social life,” the ministry said.
It is not yet clear if the government is considering legal action against the shipping company which is alleged to have damaged the fibre optic cable.

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