Ghana clamps down on ISPs

In an unprecedented move, Ghana’s National Communication Authority (NCA) has shut down three ISPs that government officials allege were offering illegal voice-over-IP (Internet Protocol) technology in the West African country.

The recent closing of Mac Telecommunications Ghana Ltd, Tin-Lfa Ghana Ltd and Intercom Data Networks (IDN) has left hundreds of frustrated customers and not only VoIP (voice-over-IP) users, according to industry observers. The decision has been strongly criticized as thwarting technological innovation.

In the wake of criticism, government officials have sought to explain the move, with John Mahama, minister of communication, saying the ISPs (Internet service providers) were shut down because the VoIP activities were not approved by the government and lost US$9 million from January to April of last year for the state duopoly of Ghana Telecom and Westel. Legislation gives those ISPs exclusive rights to offer international voice services, including VoIP.

Illegal VoIP operations lead to companies evading taxes owed to the government, in addition to the loss of local revenue, according to Mahama.

However, such explanations for the shut down of the ISPs have failed to quell anger because Ghana has few telephones and so many residents prefer VoIP because it is much less expensive than using a conventional phone.