ECA Bill withdrawn

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 12 Feb 2019
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has moved to withdraw the controversial Electronic Communications Amendment (ECA) Bill.

This comes after Parliament's portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services held public hearings on the ECA Bill in November, a move it described as an opportunity for role-players in the telecoms sector to provide oral submissions on the provisions contained in the Bill.

In a letter, submitted to the chairperson of the portfolio committee, which ITWeb has seen, Ndabeni-Abrahams says in light of certain issues that have been raised she is withdrawing "the Bill for further consultations".

Last January, telecoms operators and industry players submitted written comments on the Bill, and in March 2018, stakeholders participated in a consultation workshop on the proposed legislation.

The Cabinet-approved Bill looks to give effect to the policy objectives set out in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, published in late 2016. It contains provisions such as spectrum allocation, the wholesale open access network and rapid deployment policy. Some stakeholders are concerned it will have far-reaching implications for ICT policy in SA.

Ndabeni-Abrahams states: "The ministry has noted the report of the Portfolio Committee on the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, 2018. Importantly, we have taken note of the indication that Parliament is unlikely to finalise the Bill during the current period before the 2019 national and provincial elections.

"The report of the Portfolio Committee has also identified issues that require further deliberations between the department and the industry. Thus far, the ministry has already done preliminary engagements with some of the stakeholders and will continue with the required consultations.

"In light of the issues, I hereby withdraw the Bill for further consultations. As part of this process, we will also assess the policy and regulatory requirements needed to support the fourth industrial revolution and digital economy. The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill will also have to evolve to support our drive to create a digital society and should contribute to strengthening and enabling the regulatory environment going forward."