#DataMustFall campaign rubbishes Macra tarrifs recommendations

Data must fall

The Data Must Fall campaign has rubbished Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority's (Macra) latest recommendations to Minister of Information on communication tariffs, saying it missed the point.

On Monday evening, Macra announced that it had proposed that mobile service providers should give their subscribers options over data usage.

Acting Director General of Macra, Henry Silika said among the proposals, subscribers will be able to roll over unused data before its expiry date.

However, there is a catch as service providers can determine how much data should be rolled over.

There will also be an option for subscribers to either purchase another bundle or consent to be charged an out of bundle tariff rate.

Currently, subscribers are automatically defaulted to an out of bundle data tariff rate when data was depleted.

Macra also announced that the tarrifs approval process will take 14 day for the regulatory while the mobile service providers will be given seven days before the tariff can become effective.

But the recommendations have not amused some champions of the #DataMustFall campaigners whose initial push was the reduction of data costs. Malawians argue that are changed exorbitant, oppressive prices.

One vocal person in the fight for Data Must Fall, Idriss Nassah said: “Airtel and TNM have for years and years, been posting billions in profit gained from ripping off the poor in exchange of cow dung service, yet Macra brings out this statement that tip-toes and says nothing robust about billing and exorbitant prices when it knows that billing and exorbitant prices are the crux of DATA MUST FALL."

Daniel Grant Phiri opined that it is difficult for Macra to raise their voices against high tariffs when they’re what finance their Dubai board meetings.

Juma Luhanga said: “So in all the consultation no one mentioned that the prices are exorbitant and the way the bundle is depleted raises a lot of questions. We have been complaining of the pricing mechanism and you chose to omit this very important point."

Yeremiah Mategule explained Macra has missed the whole point: ‘Internet data bundles are expensive in Malawi. That’s the whole issue not what you are rumbling about."

Gains for #DataMustFall

In August 2020 as the momentum was up, mobile operators Airtel and TNM reduced their pre-paid or ‘out of bundle’ rates from an average of MWK20 (USD0.02) to MWK5 per MB.

There was an agreement to reduce the price of 1GB data bundles by 30 percent.

The cost of tariffs up to 4 GB was also lowered by between 10 percent and 31 percent. 

In 2021 new data reductions were announced but they still did not meet the expectations of the ordinary people who use it.

The World Bank in its 2019 Economic monitor indicated high taxation as a major factor for the exorbitant prices while citing the entry broadband packages at 19 per capita of Gross Domestic Product.

The Bank also noted lack of competition on the market has been a critical factor.