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Cofek disowns Govt’s october digital switch

23 July 2013, 17:16 Samuel Kisika

Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has distanced itself from government’s plan to switch off analogue television signals in Nairobi by October 30, 2013 terming the move as unfair to majority of consumers who are yet to own digital set -top boxes.

Speaking at the press conference, Stephen Mutoro, the Cofek Secretary General said that the October digital migration plan for Nairobi is a quick which would lock out many ICT users from using the services.

“Our sympathy goes to over 300,000 Kenyan population in Nairobi and media owners who would be locked out of accessing ICT services at the end of October for lack of having digital set-top boxes when the Government switches off the analogue signal,” said Mutoro.

Mutoro said that under the Digital migration arrangement with the government, Cofek was to spearhead negotiations on the country’s stalled digital migration; convene and chair a 9-member stakeholder forum to negotiate a new digital migration timeline and framework with the Government-led Digital Television Committee (DTC).  

Despite Cofek’s commitment to meet its expectations, Mutoro said that the Government on its side did not honour even a single expectation like allowing formation of the Digital Migration Stakeholders Forum; it only appointed Cofek as a member of the Digital Television Committee. As a result of the Government’s reneging on its expectations, Cofek formerly resigned from partnership with the Government in the said Committee on July 11.

Mutoro condemned the Government for engaging the public in confidential issues discussed with Cofek concerning the Digital migration plan with accusations that the latter intended to block the move.

“While we had our fair share of frustrations and poor handling by Government, we never involved the media but the Government engaged in unusual public activism to the unfortunate extent of claiming that the ‘agreement’ with Cofek had topped its ‘achievements’ within the first 100 days of the Jubilee Government,” said Mutoro.

Cofek has disowned the ICT Secretary’s recent statement that digital migration 'preparedness and pricing of set top boxes were easily ironed out' as fatally untrue, misleading and eroding public confidence in gigantic measure.

It held that the proposed analogue switch off date for Nairobi in October 30 has no indications that the set top boxes will retail at a price lower than KES 5 000 per unit saying the National Treasury still pushes around the controversial VAT Bill 2013 and that the Government is unlikely to subsidize the gadgets.

Cofek also stated that consumer awareness on digital migration remains a key challenge though it promised not to interfere with the Government’s move but instead use lawful means to ensure that set-top boxes will be of high quality and affordable to consumers, and that the digital frequency signals are stable and accessible within all areas designated for analogue switch-off.

Cofek further stated that they demand a consumer interest representative slot to remain on the board of the CCK compliance with Section 94 of the Consumer Protection Act 2012 with regard to Article 46 of the Constitution  even as the Kenya Information and Communication Bill seeks to remove the provision.

Mutoro said that Cofek will continue engaging with both MoICT and CCK until they demonstrate real commitment to consumer protection. He also pledged to spearhead the mobile termination rates (MTR) drop to KES 1.15.

He added that they have asked their lawyers to move to Court to seek for compensation for Star Times consumers who have no access to Free-To-Air channels.   

On June 21, Cofek and the Government announced a deal to withdraw the former’s court case against analogue signal switch-off until specific digital migration issues including tendering and provision of set-top boxes were addressed.

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