The department of communications has announced an industry colloquium next week to discuss the formulation of a broadband policy for SA. Government is keen for telecommunications prices to come down, and broadband is a key area of its focus.
The national colloquium follows the publication in September of a draft broadband policy for SA, which was signed off by communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda (pictured). Interested parties had until 18 October to file written submissions to the communications department responding the proposed policy.
The document says government wants to increase the accessibility and affordability of broadband throughout the country. The draft document quotes a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — the OECD represents 30 of the world’s most developed nations — that shows SA lagging far behind the developed world. Average penetration for broadband in the OECD is 22,4%, the document says, whereas in SA it’s only 2%. “The International Telecommunication Union also confirms that SA has a broadband penetration rate of 2%, or just over 1m broadband connections.”
Though the draft document doesn’t go into specifics, it provides insight into where government is likely to intervene. In the case of scarce radio frequency spectrum, for example, it says government has a “responsibility to use such a resource in the public interest, prioritising it for developmental objectives. In particular, appropriate radio frequency spectrum will be identified and set aside for broadband applications.”
The role of government, and especially municipalities, is likely to be an area of strong focus at next week’s colloquium. The draft policy document sets out where government believes it should be involved in telecoms. Specifically, it says the state will focus on investment in areas where market failure is prevalent. The department of communications is keen for a final broadband policy to deal with the co-ordination of national, provincial and municipal broadband strategies.
Conversely, however, “government should not operate directly in retail service provision but leave these markets to the private-sector players. The state needs to enable competition and assist with services to uneconomical and underserviced areas”.
The colloquium will be held on Wednesday and Thursday next week at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. TechCentral will report live from the event.
Anyone interested in attending the colloquium should register on the department of communications website. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral