No news on Infraco

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Johannesburg, 11 May 2007

Government is continuing to work on increasing ICT usage and accessibility as part of its broader economic policy, but has not given any details on the roll-out of its proposed broadband supplier Infraco.

Yesterday, a media briefing was given by trade and industry minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa, in Pretoria, on behalf of the economic cluster of ministries, which includes the Departments of Trade and Industry, Communications and Public Enterprises.

Mpahlwa said this is part of the 10 priorities for this cluster that had been approved by Cabinet, which would make an important contribution to transforming the South African economy. Among these is the need to "increase access, uptake and usage of information, communications and technologies infrastructure".

According to Mpahlwa, this "intervention" is targeted towards bringing ICT costs within a competitive range with comparator countries and increasing access to ICT infrastructure.

"Currently, a task team led by the presidency and including the DGs (director-generals) from DOC, DTI, DOE (education) and National Treasury is elaborating on this initiative and has finalised a report for the consideration of Cabinet," he said.

Business plan

Mpahlwa was unable to say if this included the final presentation for the Infraco business plan, an issue that has been holding up the creation of the national broadband supplier that was supposed to become operational during the first quarter of this year.

Government's Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for SA (Asgisa), which is its short- to-medium-term economic policy, indicates that increased access to ICT infrastructure should be done by rolling out Sentech's wireless broadband and Infraco, and together these would be implementing the Digital Migration Strategy. However, no further details were given.

Sources close to government say a key issue holding up the roll-out of Infraco has been just what kind of state-owned enterprise it would be.

"Should Infraco be a company that is similar in structure to Eskom, where it can raise its own financing and operate in a fairly autonomous fashion? Or should it be more like Sentech, which has to get approval for everything it does?" says one source.

Another person close to the process says because that question has not been decided upon by Cabinet, it is holding up the formulation of an Infraco law to govern the new entity.

Related stories:
Submarine cable torpedoes Molotsane
Telkom executives fear purge
World Bank connects Africa
Telkom CEO 'safe for now'
Govt to strong-arm Telkom
Eassy consortium signs supply contract
$240m Eassy begins final stretch
Telkom downplays bandwidth fears
Infraco funding on hold
Politicians hold thumbs for Sentech
Eassy (N)BINned
Passing the 2010 ball
Bandwidth throttles 2010
Govt stalls on broadband plans
DRC, Zambia join Eassy
Eassy critical to 2010 success