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Google’s Free Wi-Fi Offer Could Be Illegal – NCC

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The nation’s telecom regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has said Google’s seeming generous offer of free Wi-Fi in the country could be illegal and obscured by conditions that do not grant the commission supervisory rights.

This is contained in a letter from NCC to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) under the Office of the Vice President signed on behalf of NCC’s executive vice chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta by the executive commissioner (stakeholder management), Mr. Sunday Dare.

Recall that Google is currently rolling out the ‘free’ Wi-Fi service in Lagos and Abuja with plans to expand to other locations in the country, a development that has caused great concerns in the industry because of the threat to the investment made by existing telecom operators and privacy issues occasioned by the internet giant’s mode of operation.

The letter reported to the Office of the Vice President (PEBEC) that “Google is operating in Nigeria without being licensed by the commission with the implications that it does not pay applicable fees, levies and taxes that are paid by other players in the telecommunication sector.

“There are several other irregularities in the structure under which Google presently provides its free public Wi-Fi for which the commission requested it to provide information that will clarify certain issues that have cropped up in the course of trying to streamline its usage of short message service (SMS) for user authentication.

“Google has till date failed to provide the requested information, which has stalled efforts to resolve the issues.”

Other shortcomings the commission reported to PEBEC included Google’s failure to pay its Nigerian partners that it had presented as licensees of NCC and dealing with companies illegally providing SMS services.

Internationally, Google has come under scrutiny over privacy issues and the way it handles the user data collected through its Android mobile operating system, an array of applications and more recently its ‘free’ Wi-Fi.

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