No respite for ICASA, USAASA

Kimberly Guest
By Kimberly Guest, ITWeb contributor
Pretoria, 20 Feb 2008

SA's two communication agencies, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) and the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA), will see slight hikes in their budgets from government.

The agencies, which have long-standing under-funding difficulties, will receive budget increases of 6% and 5.5%, respectively, for the 2008/9 financial year.

National Treasury's estimates of national expenditure reveal ICASA collected R1.7 billion from communication operators in the 2006/7 financial year. However, this revenue is deposited in the National Revenue Fund and cannot be used to fund the regulator's operations.

Similarly, USAASA is charged with managing the Universal Service Fund (USF) in an "effective and sustainable manner". The USF is financed by Parliament, which appropriates the funds from the licence fees collected by ICASA within the National Revenue Fund. Money within the USF must be used for payments of subsidies.

Says the Department of Communications: "The USF is administered by the agency subject to control and in accordance with the instruction of the minister of communications."

Performance indicators

Despite slim increases in the 2008/9 budget, the Department of Communications says it expects ICASA to convert 1 300 licences in line with the Electronic Communications Act; award a further 46 licences; issue 39 radio, TV and multimedia licences; allocate 5 800 spectrum requirements; award 30 postal and courier services licences; issue 10 regulations; and complete 760 spectrum compliance checks.

As for USAASA, the department says it expects the agency to put 300 learners through skills development and training; rehabilitate or create 174 new telecentres; implement 244 cyber-labs in schools; and allocate R15 million in USAL/Pusano subsidies.

No reference was made to the funding difficulties the agencies have historically suffered.

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