A body that represents the bulk of South Africa’s Internet service provider community has described government’s national integrated ICT policy white paper as “broadly positive”, but warned against lack of proper implementation.
The white paper, which has drawn fire from industry analysts and from the big mobile operators over a plan to create a single national wholesale wireless open-access network and to assign all future mobile spectrum to this entity, is “forward-looking” and “long overdue”, said Internet Service Providers’ Association regulatory advisor Dominic Cull in a statement.
“In general, the white paper is broadly positive and forward-looking, and it reflects a much better understanding of contemporary electronic communications and related markets,” Cull said.
“While we understand that some of the proposed interventions will not be universally welcomed, we now need to get a move on.”
The association represents 178 ISPs.
Though Cull welcomed the publication of the white paper and its content, he said the association is worried about its implementation. The association’s main concern is that the white paper “does not convincingly outline how the capacity and expertise shortcomings of the regulator, or policy maker, will be addressed”.
“Our fundamental reservation is that the white paper still does not address the inability of the current institutional structures to implement its provisions,” he said.
The association said it agrees with acting director-general of telecommunications & postal services Joe Mjwara — who spearheaded development of the white paper — that the status quo in the sector must be “upended”. But this will not happen unless the status quo at the policy maker and the regulator is also upended.
“For example, while measures to change the funding model of the regulator are relevant, the fact that we need to increase its budget dramatically and ensure that it has the necessary skills to implement evidence-based interventions is not accorded the prominence it requires,” Cull said. “Historical failure to implement policy is reflected in the fact that most of the proposals in the white paper are not new.”
He said the association now hopes attention will shift to providing proper resources and skills to the regulator and policy maker so that implementation of the white paper does not take “another decade”. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media