ICT industry veteran Adrian Schofield, programme consultant at the Institute of Information Technology Professionals (ITPSA) – and a past president of the organisation – has slammed the ANC’s policies on telecommunications, saying they are holding back the sector.
Speaking at the Free Market Foundation on Tuesday, Schofield criticised the ruling party for saying “good words” in its policy statements but instead focusing on “control and limitation” when turning those policies into legislation.
He criticised the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, being developed by the department of telecoms & postal services, warning that the legislation is poorly thought through and could undermine rather than help the sector if enacted in its current form. (An audio transcript of presentations by Schofield and Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw is included below.)
Schofield slammed several aspects of the draft legislation in his presentation.
He criticised, for example, a plan to move spectrum allocation from the independent regulator — Icasa — to the telecoms ministry. “Allocation of spectrum is very technical, and we do not expect our ministers to be good at that sort of stuff. Ministers are supposed by looking after the needs of people and directing policy accordingly.
Later in the presentation, he said: “I don’t buy the argument that somehow government has to interfere in the process of allocating spectrum that is useful for certain types of communication and reaching certain types of markets.”
He also took issue with Vodacom and MTN being blamed for the way the telecoms market in South Africa has developed. “They can’t be painted as some sort of evil person because of what they did,” he said, adding that the operators simply took advantage of the policy environment.
“The bill itself speaks of a need for market analysis and reporting. Why are you then producing this piece of legislation about a market you patently don’t understand because you don’t have enough information?” Schofield asked.
On government’s planned wholesale open-access network, or Woan, he was also critical, saying there is an opportunity to share infrastructure on a more equitable basis “without messing with the law”.
Sharing the same platform, Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw explained why he believes the amendment bill is fundamentally flawed and outlined how it could be challenged on constitutional grounds.
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