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House approves bill to establish communications authority

House approves bill to establish communications authority

The House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) has approved a draft bill which would provide for the establishment of an independent regulatory body tasked with overseeing and supervising the communications service in the country.

Approved on Thursday, the new law comes amid the ongoing reform which aims at liberalizing the country’s market for foreigners including strategic sectors which have been closed off to foreigners and foreign companies.

 The draft bill which first appeared before the House two months ago was referred to a Standing Committee for additional revisions. Having reviewed it for around two months, the standing committee brought it back to the House for voting on Thursday.

The Authority will be accountable directly to the Prime Minister while its objectivity is to promote the development of high quality, efficient, reliable and affordable service throughout the nation. Furthermore, promoting a competitive market or achievement of these goals, promoting accessibility and interest of customers are among its objectives.

The authority is also empowered with a broader mandate and extended its regulatory roles which were granted to the broadcast authority, Information and Networks Service agency (INSA) and the Ethiopian Space Science Agency.

It has the responsibility to ensure that Communications Services are operated in a manner that will best serve and contribute to the Country's economic and social development, as per the government’s policy.

It has to implement policies for Communications Services and hold Stakeholder Consultations on the matters of communication service and related business either on its own initiative or on the request of a member of the public.

As stated in the draft, the authority is tasked with the duty to regulate tariffs relating to Communications Service in accordance with the provisions of this proclamation while it issues license and supervises operators of communications service and modify, renew, suspended or revoke licenses.

Moreover, the authority authorizes and supervises the use of Radio Frequency spectrum in Ethiopia for commercial and government users, including the military and intelligence services, in consultation with relevant parties, including the Ministry, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority and the organization mandated to lead Space Science and Technology activities in Ethiopia.

At the same time, the regulatory body has so manage the notification, coordination and filing process of satellite orbital locations as per the framework of international radio frequency spectrum regulations, in consultation with the organization mandated to lead Space Science and Technology activities in Ethiopia. It will further establish the national telecommunications numbering plan, allocate and administer numbers, and supervise efficient use thereof.

Regarding the Organizational structure of the Authority, it will have its own Board of Management (consisting of seven), with a Director General and as deemed necessary, Deputy Director General will be appointed by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will appoint members of the Board and designate one of his nominees to serve as the Chairman of the Board.

According to the draft, four of the members of the Board will be from government institutions and three members of the Board, from the private sector and academia; serving for a term of seven years with the possibilities of being re-appointed for a second seven-year term.