The Internet service provider industry in South Africa is fed up with confusing regulations from communications regulator Icasa over ownership rules.
This much is clear from a strongly worded statement issued by the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) on Thursday in which the industry body, which represents most ISPs in South Africa, urged Icasa to “take steps to clarify industry confusion relating to licensees entering into transactions which affect their ownership structure”.
The industry, Ispa said, is confused about which transactions require the approval of Icasa and which don’t.
“At the heart of this confusion is Icasa’s failure to take a clear position on which transactions require the regulator’s prior approval … and which transactions require only that Icasa be notified within seven days of the transaction being implemented,” said Ispa.
“The difference between these two processes is massive. An application for prior approval requires payment of a non-refundable application fee of R69 409/licence and can take anything from eight to 15 months for Icasa to process. A notification has no cost, and no further action is required from Icasa other than to update its records.”
Ispa regulatory adviser Dominic Cull said there has been a “decade of disarray” because many licensees have used the wrong process and Icasa is now “ordering that licensees reverse transactions entered into more than five years ago”.
“As a result, Ispa is requesting that Icasa implement an amnesty in respect of transactions where the required application was not made and take immediate steps to clarify its position on what constitutes a change of control over a licence,” Cull said. An amnesty period will allow affected companies to approach the regulator to “regularise their position without any sanction being imposed”.
“At the same time, it is critical that all licensees and all those seeking to acquire a licence or an ownership interest in a licence are able to follow a clear set of guidelines issued by Icasa on the correct characterisation of the transaction and the correct process to follow.”
Icasa, Cull claimed, has failed to offer any insight into how it determines whether a transaction involves a change of control over a licence.
At the same time, Ispa has called for Icasa to cut the red tape in the sector by reducing the amount of regulation with which smaller licensees are required to comply.
“This would align itself with the undertaking given during the president’s 2022 state of the nation address to take ‘far-reaching measures to unleash the potential of small businesses, micro businesses and informal businesses’.”
Cull said an “unduly complicated and unclear regulatory burden” is acting as a barrier to entry into the ICT industry for small and medium enterprises.
TechCentral has asked Icasa to comment on Ispa’s criticisms and will update this article if and when feedback is received. – © 2022 NewsCentral Media