Communications regulator Icasa should steer clear of developing regulations dealing with network neutrality, the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) has recommended.
The recommendation comes in the ISP body’s submission to Icasa’s high-level enquiry into the state of competition in South Africa’s information and communications technology sector. Icasa has asked for submissions on net neutrality and other issues.
Net neutrality, a contentious political issue in the US, refers to the idea that all Internet data should be treated the same. In particular, preferential pricing should not be used to hinder the free flow of information online.
“This is a particular problem in the US because cable providers there tend to dominate the Internet access market as a whole and there is an effective monopoly, or at best a duopoly,” says Ispa regulatory advisor Dominic Cull in a statement.
“It’s not a particularly helpful debate for us in South Africa as our market is at a different stage of development. We face a different set of issues in order to ensure fair competition here,” Cull says.
Ispa says that the shaping bandwidth should be recognised as a normal, day-to-day part of network operations.
“The key point to emphasise here is that consumers need to be made aware of this fact, and understand the nature of the service they are purchasing,” says Cull.
“At this stage, rules should be primarily directed at prohibiting network operators from unfairly prioritising their own network traffic over the traffic from other operators. But if an ISP’s customer wants to buy a service that is prioritised in some way, then he or she should be able to do so. The same is true for content providers.
“The principle we need to follow should be that when a consumer buys a premium service, it should not affect the service offered to other consumers. Ensuring that these options are offered and provided fairly can easily be regulated by existing competition law, as well as the Electronic Communications Act.” — © 2014 NewsCentral Media