The Rwanda Utility Regulation Authority (Rura) is now monitoring Internet service providers and public transport operators as it seeks to resolve their differences, which have hampered the “Smart Kigali” initiative.
In February last year, Rwanda launched the first set of public buses with 4G Internet, but the project has been marred by payment disagreements between service providers and transport companies, leading to inconsistent service.
Now Rura says its officials will step in to monitor the service payment vis-a-vis the quality of service provided to ensure compliance by all parties and iron out any differences.
Rura spokesperson, Anthony Kulamba, said both the Internet service providers and public transport operators have not complied with contractual obligations, which resulted in the Internet on buses initiative becoming ineffective.
“During an evaluation meeting with all players, we found that the quality of Internet offered has been depreciating while service providers say their payments are long overdue,” said Mr Kulamba.
“To resolve this problem, we have decided to open an account into which transport companies will be depositing money to pay for Internet, which is included in the bus fare. The money will then be transferred to service providers.”
Mr Kulamba said the account has been operational since the beginning of this month.
“Monitoring payments between the two parties will enable us to hold them accountable,” Mr Kulamba said.
The ongoing impasse is between Internet service provider Korean Telecommunication Rwanda Network (KTRN) and public transport operators.
The transporters blame KTRN for providing poor service, while the Internet provider accuses transport companies of delaying payments for the service.
This comes even as the second phase of the service contract awarded to KTRN to provide Internet on public transport buses, comes under scrutiny for not living up to expectations.
The new contract was awarded to KTRN in April and it is expected to come to an end by December to pave the way for a new contract.
“We have already got instructions from Rura about what should be prioritised as the new service contract starts. We are committed to offering reliable Internet service,” Franchisco Choi, the chief operating officer of KTRN told Rwanda Today.
Despite Rura’s promise to resolve the issues facing the ‘Smart Kigali’ initiative, commuters are still not getting Internet access on the buses.
This has caused disputes between passengers and public transport operators, with travellers asking for a refund since they are not getting the service they paid for.
Passengers pay Rwf30 ($0.04) for Internet on every trip, which results in the three authorised public transport operators collecting Rwf60 million ($72,000) each month.
According to reliable sources, KTRN is owed about $800,000 by public transporters, but efforts to confirm this figure were futile as the Internet service provider failed to confirm the amount.