The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) wants the department of justice & constitutional development to relook at the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (Rica) because of the “near-impossible burden of physically verifying the details and identity” of Internet users.
“Given that ISPs sell a virtual product and sign up most of their existing customers electronically (either telephonically or over the Internet), this places an enormous administrative and financial burden on them,” says Ispa GM Ant Brooks.
“Many ISPs do not have retail outlets, making it almost impossible for them to verify the identity of their customers.”
Brooks says the department of justice had previously recognised the need to re-examine section 39 of the act, which ISPs to record certain personal information of their customers and then verify the information before activating any electronic communication services, such as Internet services.
Most South Africans with mobile phones will have already gone through the above process with their mobile network provider under section 40 of Rica.
“ISPs face the enormous challenge of appointing agents or setting up branch offices to verify new customers,” says Brooks. “In order to be compliant with Rica as it currently stands, a customer needs to appear physically in front of an ISP’s representative with their ID, proof of address and certified copies of both of these (to be retained indefinitely by the ISP) before an account can be activated.”
In addition to the inconvenience this process would cause for ISPs and customers, it could have the unintended effect of driving up Internet access costs, Brooks says. “The costs associated with ISP customer registration could even drive smaller ISPs out of business as they will not be able to compete with bigger competitors with national retail outlets.”
Ispa has proposed that ISPs be allowed to verify documents in electronic format using the framework set out in the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002. “We are hopeful that the department of justice will give this proposal serious consideration,” says Brooks. — Staff reporter, TechCentral