The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa), the body that represents most of South Africa’s ISPs, has again reiterated that it supports the concept of network neutrality.
It said in a statement on Friday that there should be “no blocking or prioritisation of lawful websites, content, applications or services” by local service providers.
The association’s regulatory adviser, Dominic Cull, said net neutrality should sit alongside an independent judiciary, regular elections and a free press as one of “the most important hallmarks of a functioning democracy”.
ISPs, governments or major corporations should not be able to discriminate against Internet traffic or content they don’t want people to access, Cull said.
“South Africa currently exists in a net neutral environment that requires protection. Taking away net neutrality could radically slow the connections of local Web users as Internet sites that require lots of streaming data are blocked due to cost concerns.”
Ispa said in the statement that the next milestone in the net neutrality debate in South Africa will be the publication of a forthcoming national ICT policy white paper.
“The recommendations set out in the National Integrated ICT Policy Review report published in March this year advocate South Africa adopting an ‘open Internet policy’ incorporating the broad principles of net neutrality centred on the non-discrimination of Internet traffic, with the detail being left to be dealt with by [communications regulator] Icasa,” Ispa said.
Cull said: “The Internet was born neutral and that single most important founding principle should always be top of mind.”
Ispa said it is “encouraged” that the “importance of this principle has recently been explicitly recognised by the deputy minister of telecommunications & postal services, Hlengiwe Mkhize, at a speech given at the sub-Saharan Africa Regional Summit, held in Barcelona on 24 February 2016”.
Mkhize said at the summit that all Internet traffic must be treated “equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, regardless of the sender, receiver, content, device, service or application”.
“A net neutrality policy does not preclude reasonable and transparent network management by ISPs, but must prevent anticompetitive behaviour where selected data traffic is prioritised because of its low cost, or because its content pleases those in charge,” said Cull.
“Network management practices, performance and commercial terms of broadband Internet access services (including any shaping or capping of bandwidth-hungry services) must be clearly advertised to enable consumers to make informed choices regarding their use of such services,” said Ispa in the statement.
“Consumers must also be informed of any ‘fair use’ policies, the emphasis being on fairness to other network users, rather than the operator.” — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media