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De Lille laments regulatory delays

ID leader Patricia de Lille wants ICASA to hurry up, so jobs can be created.

A host of regulations are in the works at the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), but delays in having these promulgated harms job creation in SA, says a politician.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille says ICASA is “far behind” in promulgating regulations that would give proper effect to the Electronic Communications Act (ECA).

She says regulatory delays hamper liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, which has a knock-on impact on job creation. “Communication can be used as a tool to help SA come out of the recession.”

ICASA is currently working on 35 sets of regulations under the ECA. These include local loop unbundling (LLU) and the review of handset subsidy regulations.

De Lille says regulations take 60 days to draw up if there is an enquiry, as the process is then interrupted by hearings. If there is no need for public participation, regulations should only take 30 days to come into effect.

However, the process is further complicated when ICASA councillors are out of the country, giving speeches and attending workshops, she says.

Holding SA back

Dominic Cull, an expert in electronic communications regulation at Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, says: “The problems at ICASA have been well-documented in Parliament and the media recently.

“The failure to finalise regulations – particularly those relating to competition, interconnection, facilities leasing, geographic number portability, LLU and carrier selection – is most certainly holding back the introduction of competition and the lowering of the cost of communication in SA.”

Cull adds that government has not provided ICASA with sufficient resources to deal with the requirements of the ECA.

“Fortunately, there now appears to be a degree of recognition of the need to empower ICASA, given that it remains critical to nearly every initiative to position electronic communications as an enabler of economic growth. ICASA itself has appointed service providers to assist it in evaluating its performance and how this can be improved,” he notes.

Welcome changes

De Lille has, however, welcomed moves by government to give the regulator more teeth, and speed up the process of giving effect to legislation.

Yesterday, Department of Communications director-general Mamodupi Mohlala said amendments will be made to the ECA to give ICASA more tools to deal with its industries.

She explained the amendments will be done by the middle of next year, and the department is prioritising bringing down the cost of communication.

Mohlala explained that the aspects of the legislation that deal specifically with the cost of communication in SA will be the first to be fine-tuned, followed by trimming aspects of the Act that limit ICASA from speedily carrying out its tasks.

De Lille says the Act needs to be simplified, especially Chapter 10. She says the chapter, which requires ICASA to perform in-depth market analysis before passing some regulations, is cumbersome and inhibits the regulator from doing its job.

Mohlala said this is likely to change, and a process will be defined that allows the regulator to move quicker.

Late last month, acting ICASA chairman Robert Nkuna said mobile operators will face a storm of regulations by the middle of next year, which could have a dramatic impact on the industry.

These regulations include carrier preselect regulations, which should be finalised by the end of the year, followed by LLU. Geographic number portability is also expected to kick off in February.

ICASA spokesman Josias Mathiba says the authority has not yet started with the process of prescribing these regulations, and feedback will be supplied once it begins.

Outstanding regulations:

1. Interconnection regulations
2. Electronic communications facilities leasing regulations
3. Carrier pre-selection regulations
4. Review of price cap regulations
5. Review of numbering plan regulations
6. Unreserved postal services regulations
7. Review of postal tariffs regulations
8. Local loop unbundling regulations
9. Review of handset subsidy regulations
10. Advertising of infomercials regulations
11. Competition framework regulations
12. Regulatory impact analysis regulations
13. Review of standard terms and conditions regulations
14. Review of process regulations
15. Digital migration regulations
16. Local content regulations
17. Sports broadcasting rights regulations
18. Licensing of commercial radio regulations
19. Licensing of I-ECNS regulations
20. Licensing of mobile TV regulations
21. Licensing of Broadband Infraco regulations
22. Ownership and control for individual licences regulations
23. Review of universal service and access regulations
24. Radio regulations
25. Frequency band plan regulations
26. Radio frequency spectrum fees regulations
27. Licensing of high frequency bands regulations
28. Review of type approval regulations
29. Spectrum licensing regulations
30. Spectrum co-ordination regulations
31. E-rate regulations
32. Conveyance of mail regulations
33. Complaints and compliance regulations
34. Enquiry for services without frontiers and video on demand
35. Regulations concerning procedures for ICASA inspectors

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