The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) – an industry body that represents most of South Africa’s ISPs – has strongly criticised communications regulator Icasa for attempting to “micromanage” the sector.
Ispa wants Icasa to “reconsider the extent to which it micromanages the affairs of licensees and the industry”, the association said.
“Ispa acknowledges that Icasa has an important role to play in transforming the ICT sector through its regulations mandating transformation through equity ownership and the application of the ICT Sector Code,” it said.
“However, when it comes to commonplace business transactions within the industry, we believe the regulator is overregulating by inserting itself into and delaying commercial deals involving the transfer of a licence or transfer of control over a licence,” said Ispa regulatory adviser Dominic Cull in a statement on Monday.
Cull said transfers of ownership of or control over licences can take Icasa up to 180 working days to process and cost an applicant in the region of R70 000/licence.
‘Impediment to growth’
“Ispa has received feedback from its members that includes examples of delays of more than a year to get Icasa’s approval for changes to internal shareholder arrangements.”
He described the delays as being “at odds with reasonable commercial practice” and acting as an “impediment to growth and transformation … by disincentivising investment and entry into the sector”.
This kind of “micromanagement” may have been appropriate when the number of licensees was limited, but it is “no longer necessary now that there are more than 500 individual licensees authorised to deploy networks and provide services across South Africa”.
“The Competition Commission is well aware of levels of concentration of ownership and control in the sector and already plays the role of ensuring that transfer of ownership or control of a licence does not have anticompetitive effects: There is no need for Icasa to adopt an expansive attitude to its role.”
The ISP body said it will lobby for changes to legislation to reduce Icasa’s role but has asked, in the interim, that it “consider measures it can take to reduce the time taken to process applications for transfer of ownership or control over licences”.
TechCentral has asked Icasa for feedback on Ispa’s criticism and will update this article once this has been received. – © 2021 NewsCentral Media