OPA slams Telkom on ADSL

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 04 Aug 2005

The Online Publishers` Association (OPA) has lashed out against Telkom for its reported refusal to adhere to a decision made by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) that the operator may not charge added monthly fees to ADSL subscribers.

ICASA`s report was based on hearings held in response to at least 46 complaints made by consumers over Telkom`s ADSL offering. ICASA`s findings in this matter stated that, "in the interest of consumer protection, Telkom may only charge a once-off access fee and, thereafter, charges are to be restricted to line rental only".

The online industry has reacted with "outrage" to the operator`s reported response to the ruling and to claims that Telkom is set to take legal action against ICASA and the threat of a blanket cut-off of its ADSL services.

Russell Hanly, chairman of the OPA, says Telkom`s knee-jerk response to this ruling goes against the level telecoms playing field this country is aiming to build.

"Members of the OPA watch helplessly from the sidelines while Telkom bullies and undermines ICASA. The growth in our industry, which broadband access can deliver, continues to be thwarted.

SA is slipping

"Regardless of whether ICASA did their homework or not on the technical aspects, the facts still speak for themselves. SA is slipping further and further behind other African countries and developing markets such as India and China. In the year 2000, we had 50% of all the Internet connections in Africa; now we are down to 25%. Telkom is the gateway to Internet access in this country and continues to be a law unto itself."

The OPA believes this threat is unreasonable and may have some far-reaching consequences for the economy. E-commerce and online publishing could be severely affected, and, while SA has made early gains in the online market, progress has been difficult as a result of expensive bandwidth, it says.

The OPA represents the top 22 online publishers in SA. Online readership research carried out by Nielsen//Netratings has shown that the number of Internet users in SA is increasing steadily, with a latest unique browser figure of 4.6 million and 115 million page impressions for June.

This number encompasses both local and international traffic on OPA member Web sites. Traffic originating from SA makes up 37% of the total readership figure, and 87% of the total page impressions.

"Increased local online activity means more online sales for retailers. There is no doubt that this is a growing and sustainable market that is creating a wealth of opportunity for the consumer industry," says Hanly.

Related stories:
MyADSL welcomes ICASA report
Telkom not informed of ICASA report