Communications minister Dina Pule said on Wednesday that the set-top boxes that will be subsidised for poorer households will get a “return path” to provide basic Internet access. She made the announcement at the department of communications’ ICT Indaba in Cape Town.
South Africans will be required to purchase set-top boxes as the country migrates from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
Government has said it will subsidise 5m of the boxes as part of the migration process. Set-top boxes convert digital signals into analogue ones so that legacy equipment without a digital receiver can still be used.
The SA Communications Forum (SACF), an industry lobby group that has been pushing hard for a return path to be included in the boxes, praised the minister’s decision, saying it would provide Internet access “for the masses of economically marginalised South Africans”.
The SACF contends that the inclusion of Internet access in the set-top box specification requirements is “the best opportunity to bridge the digital divide” and says it wishes to “congratulate the minister for her strong leadership in grasping this once-off opportunity”.
“This decision means that SA, which had been lagging behind in Internet penetration on the continent, will move swiftly ahead in its goals to achieve universal access and ICT competitiveness.”
Pule has not yet provided a reason for her decision or elaborated on the technical specifications of the return path and what impact it might have on the digital migration process. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media