Podcast | Leon Louw skewers planned changes to ICT law - TechCentral

Podcast | Leon Louw skewers planned changes to ICT law

Leon Louw

Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw has skewered planned amendments to legislation that governs South Africa’s ICT sector, saying the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, which will introduce a controversial wholesale open-access network (Woan), will cause enormous damage to the industry.

Speaking to an audience in Johannesburg on Wednesday (click below to listen to the podcast), Louw blasted the idea of the Woan, saying that the only other country in the world that has attempted something similar is Rwanda — and it has been a “disaster” for the East African nation. Prices are high, coverage poor and uptake low, he said.

In terms of the amendment bill, the South African government wants to reserve a big chunk of radio frequency spectrum for the Woan and to force commercial operators to buy capacity from the wholesale provider.

It even moots the idea of taking away existing spectrum allocated to operators such as Vodacom and MTN. If government attempts this, the operators are likely to challenge it on constitutional grounds.

In the presentation, Louw labelled government’s failure to allocate additional spectrum to commercial operators as “outrageous”.

“The bill is truly weird. Why would you want to uproot, destroy or eliminate one of South Africa’s biggest success stories, in fact the biggest success story of the new South Africa?” he asked.

Louw said it was a mistake for the mobile operators to try and forge a middle ground with government — the so-called hybrid model where the operators will get spectrum in return for also supporting the Woan by buying capacity from the new company. He said government had reneged on the agreement and acted in bad faith.

“They assumed trust and honour of the kind you get between businesses that you do not get with politicians. It’s a completely different world and they are babes in the wood and few of them know how to deal with the world of politics,” Louw said in response to a question from TechCentral. “Businesspeople are simply unaccustomed to this level of duplicity…”

Listen to the full presentation:

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  1. It is Mr Louw’s democratic right to take to the podium/s and criticise however much he pleases. I only take issue with him falsifying (lately, he is “skewering”) what is on public record. In this scare-mongering presentation Mr Louw is not offering advice, or presenting an alternative, neither is he recommending solutions to what he sees as problematic in the this ECA Bill.

    “It even moots the idea of taking away existing spectrum allocated to operators such as Vodacom and MTN. If government attempts this, the operators are likely to challenge it on constitutional grounds.” THIS IS NOT THE CASE. MNOs presented a laudible case against a notion of “returning the spectrum at the expiration of their licences”. The government conceded. Citing the return of spectrum as though it’s been carried through to the Amendment Bill is a falsification.

    The spectrum regime currently sector sector growth as it prohibits market entry by willing new participants generally, and black SMMEs particularly. This status quo must change; and the MNOs agree as much. Only Mr Louw needs to catch up with this specific narrative and contribute to it, rather than “sow discord among brethren”.

    Mr Louw is obviously full of praise for how the telecoms industry has grown and achieved. He calls it South Africa’s biggest success story but shall not credit the Telecommunications Act (1996), its subesquent Amendments, the numerous policies and and other regulatory instruments for this “success story”. He, like many others, fails to see the trend to continually improve and adapt the ICTs as the Amendment Bill seeks to.

    The ICT SMME sub-subsector supports the Bill and will be making a submission to that effect. Mr Louw has until 31 January 2018 to write his own submission.

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