Parliament Briefed on Electronic Communications Amendment Bill

Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services

A need exists to strengthen cooperation between the Independent Communications Authority and the Competition Commission.

The telecommunications and postal services department highlighted this during a briefing in parliament on the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill.

Increased cooperation would allow ICASA to draw on the expertise of the Commission to assist it in defining and reviewing markets.

The bill was tabled in parliament in September 2018.

The proposed legislation flows from the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper.

The bill seeks to:

•    amend the Electronic Communications Act, 2005, so as to provide for transformation of the sector through enforcement of broad-based black economic empowerment;
•    provide for lowering of cost of communications, reducing infrastructure duplications and encouraging service-based competition through a wireless open access network service;
•    provide a new framework for rapid deployment of electronic communications facilities;
•    provide for new approaches on scarce resources such as spectrum, including the assignment of high-demand spectrum on open access principles;
•    create a new framework for open access;
•    provide for the regulation of international roaming, including SADC roaming to ensure regulated roaming costs, quality of service and transparency;
•    provide for regular market definition and review to ensure effective competition;
•    provide for improved quality of services, including for persons with disabilities;
•    provide for consumer protection of different types of end-users and subscribers, including persons and institutions;
•    provide for enhanced co-operation between the National Consumer Commission and the Authority, as well as the Competition Commission and the Authority; and
•    provide for matters connected therewith.

Some of the issues identified as problems that the bill sought to address include a lack of balancing of rights of ECNS licensees (deployment of broadband infrastructure) with those of public and private landowners; an exclusive spectrum regime which promotes economic growth for a few players; an infrastructure market characterized by ineffective competition, infrastructure sharing bottlenecks, duplication of infrastructure and inefficient use of scarce resources and high cost to communicate due to duplication of infrastructure.

Key amendments focus on rapid deployment, spectrum, international roaming, open access and competition.

The department pointed out that the bill now excludes broadcasting signal distributors from open access requirements as different legal requirements already exist.

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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