The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the action taken on Wednesday by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) against Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) Holdings. WBS, which owns iBurst and Broadlink, allegedly owes the regulatory authority millions of rand in outstanding licence fees.
In a statement on Thursday, DA MP Marian Shinn says Icasa’s move “should serve as a warning to the many network providers [that] have exploited Icasa’s weak administration to their financial advantage that they are likely to feel the wrath of their disconnected customer base if they don’t make prompt arrangements to pay their outstanding fees”.
TechCentral reported on Wednesday that roughly 75% of Broadlink’s network in Gauteng was offline on Wednesday after Icasa inspectors visited WBS’s Bryanston and Gallo Manor facilities and shut down transmission equipment.
“WBS’s tardiness with its fee payments was highlighted last month when Icasa councillor Joseph Lebooa went public with the claim that [he] had been hijacked and he was assaulted by thugs who told him the attack was a warning from WBS to stop investigating it,” Shinn says.
Last week, parliament’s portfolio committee on communications took Icasa to task over its apparent inability to monitor spectrum use by South African network providers and to determine with accuracy exactly who owes how much. Shinn says unpaid spectrum fees may run into billions of rand.
“Icasa chairman Stephen Mncube came under fire for his weak leadership and inability to ensure that the licensing authority was properly equipped with state-of-the-art technology to properly do its job,” Shinn says.
She hopes Wednesday’s action “is just the first in a series of actions against many spectrum licence-fee transgressors and that when Icasa comes before the portfolio committee again later this year for a detailed update on its spectrum monitoring and fee-collection activities, significant income will have been realised from network providers’ arrears”.
Aside from bolstering Icasa’s coffers, Shinn says sound financial management of licence fees “will go a long way to ensuring Icasa’s independence from government funding”.
In clamping down on WBS, Icasa is doing “what it is legally obligated to do to show government is serious about collecting its dues”. Shinn also expressed gratitude to Lebooa for “unwittingly” becoming the “lightning rod” for the issue of unpaid fees. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media