CA targets community networks to boost connectivity in undeserved areas

The Communications Authority (CA) is planning to lower barriers and licensing fees for the community network operators in a bid to boost broadband connectivity in undeserved areas.

Universal Service Fund Manager Dr Emma Otieno says the authority is also looking at ensuring that the financial and administrative requirements for community networks are commensurate with their scope and scale.

“Communication Authority of Kenya is reviewing the options for lowering the barrier to use other license-exempt bands,” said Dr Otieno.

Adding that: “We want to integrate a new licence category for community networks within the Unified Licensing Framework review process currently underway.”

The authority has formulated a draft Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks which if approved will guide mass roll-out of community networks.

Community Networks are currently operating in Kenya but due to limited awareness of the self provided communications infrastructure, regulatory and policy barriers, human resource and financial constraints, they have not released their full potential.

Through the framework, CA seeks to implement a framework regulatory action geared towards unlocking the barriers faced by the Community Networks.

CA is also targeting to use the framework to integrate new licenses for the CNs and ensure financial and administration requirements are in line with their scope and scale.

Community Networks primarily operate in low-income areas posing a challenge in access to finances and human capacity.

CA targets to develop a shared spectrum for underutilized International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum bands as well as reduce spectrum fee for undeserved areas.

Through the Public Communication Access Centre, the authority seeks to reduce operator licensing fees, a fact considered a unique category for CNs under Ultra-low frequency (ULF).

This is geared to pursue a unified licensing framework for small telecommunication operators and other alternative providers.

The CA has approved a framework enabling and governing the use of TV Whitespace (TVWs) which allows community networks and small network operators greater flexibility in establishment of broadband backhaul links to connect networks.

Sustainable development for CNs is vital hence the ICT authority has developed a plan of action to integrate new licensing category for CNs with unified framework, ensure the application form for Cnsp license draws from the existing broadcasting application form used by the authority that include two letters of support from the community leaders as part of community ownership.

The framework was developed in partnership with the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and supported by the United Kingdom’s Digital Access Programme.


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