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SA internet providers decry regulator’s ‘too many roles’

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JOHANNESBURG – THE Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) is advocating for legislative to reduce the role of the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA).

ISPA wants the regulator reconsider the extent to which it micromanages the affairs of licensees and the industry.

“However, when it comes to commonplace business transactions within the industry, we believe the regulator is over-regulating by inserting itself into and delaying commercial deals involving the transfer of a licence or transfer of control over a licence,” said Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory advisor.

ISPA requests that ICASA in the interim consider any measures it can take to reduce the time taken to process applications for transfer of ownership or control over licenses.

Cull explained that transfers of ownership of or control over licences take ICASA up to 180 working days to process and cost an applicant in the region of R70 000 (US$4 719) per licence.

ISPA has reportedly received feedback from its members that includes examples of delays of more than a year to get ICASA’s approval for changes to internal shareholder arrangements.

“In practice, parties may reach a commercial agreement but must then wait for up to 180 working days to get approval from a regulator,” Cull said.

“This is clearly at odds with reasonable commercial practice and acts as an impediment to growth and transformation of the sector by disincentivising investment and entry into the sector.”

According to ISPA, such micromanagement might have been appropriate when the number of licensees was limited.

However, it is no longer necessary now that there are more than 500 individual licensees authorised to deploy networks and provide services across South Africa.

“The Competition Commission is well aware of levels of concentration of ownership and control in the sector and already plays the role of ensuring that transfer of ownership or control of a licence does not have anti-competitive effects: there is no need for ICASA to adopt an expansive attitude to its role,” Cull concluded.

Meanwhile, speaking at a recent virtual conference, Councillor Thembeka Semane, ICASA Chairperson of the Mobile Broadband Services Inquiry Committee, said the authority had an important mandate of regulating in the public interest.

“We remain guided by this constitutional imperative,” Semane said.

– CAJ News




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