The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has finalised draft regulations on local-loop unbundling (LLU) but is holding off on publishing them until new communications minister Yunus Carrim has read them and provided feedback.
The local loop is the connection from subscribers’ premises to Telkom’s exchanges. LLU will give the company’s rivals access to this network in some or other form.
Icasa was meant to have published the draft regulations in July, but said at the time that the process was taking longer than expected.
Though Icasa does not require the minister’s approval before publishing regulations, Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka says Carrim may have “another view” on them and it doesn’t want to have to withdraw or review the regulations later if he does.
“Icasa’s councillors met with the minister last week and briefed him about all Icasa projects, including LLU,” Maleka says. This meeting was a cursory briefing and Carrim is expected to participate in a more in-depth discussion with the regulator within the next fortnight. “After that, if he doesn’t have further comments, they will be published.”
Kathleen Rice, director of the technology, media and telecommunications practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, says Icasa doesn’t need approval from the minister or the department of communications and is only required to “consider” existing policy. “Policy has been pretty consistent in recent years that Icasa must unbundle the local loop.”
Under the Electronic Communications Act, Icasa must inform the minister of its intentions and the subject matter of proposed regulations not less than 30 days before publication, but has no obligations beyond that, she says. “The minister should have no say in regulations at all.”
But Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn isn’t concerned. She suspects Icasa’s move is out of courtesy more than anything else.
Shinn says Carrim is still getting to grips with the demands of his portfolio and needs to be given time to do so. Icasa is most likely giving him time to do just this. “He has shown a willingness to meet as many people as possible and to understand what the actual problems are and interrogate the reasons for things being the way they are.”
She adds that it may, therefore, be reasonable to raise the matter in two weeks’ time if no progress has been made. For now, though, she says, it may be best to give Icasa and Carrim the benefit of the doubt. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media