By Adama Tine
The high cost of internet services in the Gambia is triggering misery among several people, some describing it as nightmare. As a result, online communication is becoming difficult in the country due to the high cost of internet services.
Good internet service is important to ensure effective communication, considering the fact that both the educated and the uneducated use social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and other online platforms to communicate daily.
In an interview with Mamos Media, a businessman in Brikama, Baboucarr Cessay described the cost of internet services in the country as dreadful, adding; “I use Qcell data to communicate on social media platforms but it is very expensive.”
Complaining further he said: “I often purchase D50 megabyte to communicate via WhatsApp as well as download something, but it would not sustain me for a day. This is very costly.”
In the Gambia, many people have stopped browsing in internet cafes due to high cost and slow internet services.
On his part, Ansumana Jammeh, proprietor of Ceesay Power Communication Internet located at Kombo Farato said the high cost of megabyte is unbearable.
Reacting to the concerns, Amadou Ceesay, executive secretary for the Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) confirmed that the Commission has received several complaints about Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related issues such as data connection, unexplained charges, charges for unsubscribed ringtones, high charges, advertisements that are purported to be false in term of internet usage, among others.
Ceesay said GCCPC has conducted a research on ICT charges within the sub-region particularly Senegal but the report indicated that communication rates (internet services and credit) in the Gambia are almost twice more expensive than in some of those countries.
Consequently, he said the Commission has been receiving complaints on quarterly basis and all those complaints were being forwarded to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).
“We have a Memorandum of Understanding with PURA and share complaints with them as the first point of call,” he disclosed.
Reacting to the complaints, Musa Sise, a media consultant for Africell told Mamos Media that the high cost of the internet services is due to the high cost of telecommunication materials.
He said that the Africell has invested lots of money to provide services for Gambian people but the number of consumers in the country is very small compared to other countries that have good number of consumers.
“We spend over 800 million dalasi on tax per annum. We have bought towers valued about $200,000. We spend more money on sport levy, among other expenditures and the numbers of consumers is low compared to other countries,” he said.
Matarr Touray, senior economist for PURA underscored the factors responsible for high cost of internet services in the Gambia. He said the Gambia gets internet through relatively new infrastructure from the undersea Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable and transport it locally via the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Wide Area Network (ECOWAN) backbone.