SA broadband policy set for Cabinet discussion – Carrim

South African communications minister Yunus Carrim said the new Department of Communications (DoC) broadband strategy plan is expected to go before Cabinet next Wednesday, as the government seeks to ensure every South African has internet access by 2020.

Speaking to journalists at the Cape Town Press Club, Carrim reiterated previous claims that the country’s broadband policy has been lagging behind for many years.

A recent report by Goldman Sachs also indicated technology was South Africa’s biggest area of underperformance, while Cisco vice president of global technology policy Dr Robert Pepper said in September the country needed to implement a broadband policy in order to increase penetration.

Carrim said the DoC will release of Green Paper on broadband policy if Cabinet approves the strategy, with the department planning to hold national consultations at the end of January or in early February next year and release a White Paper by July.

HumanIPO reported last month the DoC had hosted a broadband policy workshop in Pretoria, featuring a range of experts commenting on the latest draft of the department’s broadband policy and plan.

Last year David Belson, product line director, custom government engineering at internet experts Akamai, had said achieving 100 per cent broadband coverage across South Africa would be challenging, with internet speeds, rural users and affordability key issues to be resolved.

In March, Alpheus Mangale, managing director of Cisco South Africa, said a public-private partnership (PPP) was the only way for the South African government to meet the target, while Arthur Goldstuck, founder of business technology research firm World Wide Worx, said the South African government was only paying “lip service” to the target and would miss it badly.

Goldstuck said the government was wholly reliant on the private sector for the broadband rollout.

“All efforts towards that target are coming from private enterprises at the moment,” he said. “The government is paying lip service towards broadband, but there is nothing in place to achieve it.”

Carrim, who has previously criticised the delays to the process of forming a coherent national broadband policy, also said his department was looking to bring down mobile termination rates – the rate charged by one operator to connect to a call to another operator – from 40c to 10c by 2016.

Though he said government could not itself interfere in the market, Carrim said there was a feeling that in developing countries regulators were unable or unwilling to intervene to bring down high rates.

“We are trying to tell them that it is in the interests, in the whole, for economic development (to bring down communications costs),” he said, saying he would issue a policy directive to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) next year to force operators to publish transparent pricing.

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