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Service providers, Sierra Leone gov't clash over rules for ACE cable system

Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji | Jan. 10, 2014
Service providers in Sierra Leone are protesting the government's move to close them, following allegations that they have failed to meet a Dec. 16 deadline to pay fees related to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber-optic network, managed in the country by the Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB).

They claimed none of the ISPs in the country has paid the new charges, yet the ministry has chosen to disconnect only some of them.

But according to a statement from Deputy Information Minister Theo Nicol, five of the nine ISPs using the ACE systems have paid the charges. Since that statement was made, a sixth company, Iptel, has taken the necessary steps to conform to government rules.

Nicol also noted that SALCAB was initially a nonprofit model but that the minister had seen the need to change to a profit-making model, a plan that is close to getting cabinet approval, and so the initial agreement was suspended.

Nicol said operators were getting the service almost for free while the government was paying a huge sum to the ACE consortium.

LimeLine Managing Director Foday Sankoh said the company would not fill out new forms or respect the new terms and conditions, insisting the previous agreement must be respected. He accused the government of not prioritizing the needs of users and the information ministry of encouraging unbalanced competition by favoring certain ISPs, Sierra WiFi in particular, which he claimed has been operating in the country unlicensed. Investigations related to the charges that Sankoh leveled against Sierra WiFi are ongoing.


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