The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the nation’s communications regulatory body, is considering regulating the over the top services offered by several telecommunications companies in the country.
Over the top services (OTT) refer to services provided to customers over a network but that are not sold, provided, or serviced by the carrier network. Amongst Nigerians, the most popular OTT services are WhatsApp, Facebook, and Skype.
According to the NCC, carrier services such as MTN, Etisalat, and Glo have no ability to regulate any of these messaging applications.
These issues are covered in a recent report published by the Policy, Competition & Economic Analysis Department of the NCC entitled An Overview of Provision of Over The Top [OTT] Services.
The report argues that OTT services are becoming a direct threat to traditional telephone networks operators as these services are cheap, and even free in some cases, and cannot be tolled by typical telephone networks.
It will be recalled that the Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petition and other Related Matters, popularly known as the Anti-Social Media bill, attempted to regulate precisely the same communications technologies.
While the report does not specifically call for the criminalization of behavior on applications such as WhatsApp, it does call for increased government scrutiny of these communication tools.
WhatsApp, Facebook, and other social media applications have been critical in the organization of many recent Nigerian protest movements including the #OccupyNigeria movement of 2012.
In response to the #OccupyNigeria movement, the Federal Government drafted the Lawful Interception of Communications Regulation bill. However, the bill came under heavy fire and was subsequently tabled.
In its call for regulation of these social media platforms the NCC’s report noted the “danger” of messages being “intercepted” by unknown persons.
“Attackers may be able to perform activities such as intercepting communications, eavesdropping, taking control of phones, making fraudulent calls from an account, conducting effective phishing attacks by manipulating one’s caller ID, and causing service to crash,” the report reads.
Due to this “threat”, the report argues, increased regulation is necessary in order to protect the country’s “security”.