Draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill
The DTPS is revising the Draft Bill in light of written and oral submissions made. The revised Bill will then be presented to Cabinet and, if approved, introduced into Parliament in the current financial year end. We hear that….
- The concession on the incumbent operators retaining their existing holdings will be formalised.
- The plan to replace ICASA is likely to be shelved or deferred.
- There is significant activity behind the scenes to try and flesh out the WOAN concept and the most effective process for operationalising it. The main players here are Telkom and Cell C.
We also hear that it is unlikely that an Electronic Communications Amendment Bill will be debated in Parliament during 2018.
Implementation of the White Paper
Cabinet has approved the iKamva National e-Skills Institute Bill, 2018 (iNeSI Bill) and this will now be submitted to Parliament for processing. The Bill provides for the establishment of iNeSI, as a legal entity with its own legislation to address e-skills (digital skills) capacity challenges in South Africa. A draft version of the Bill was published for public comment on 8 November 2017.
Cost to Communicate
In the last report we provided feedback on the NCOP Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprise hosting of a stakeholder briefing on reducing the cost to communicate, held on 28 March 2018. The minutes of the meeting reveal the following points of interest:
- Telkom made the interesting suggestion that data be exempted from the levying of VAT, something the Committee was considering.
- Cell C noted that nobody knew how much they paid for 1 megabyte per minute, and that there was a deliberate strategy from network operators to keep that information from consumers.
- In response to the excessive back-patting from the operators one honourable member made the point to the presenters that “telling the Committee about their corporate social investment would not reduce the cost to communicate”.
ICASA presented its Annual Performance Plan for 2018/19 to the Portfolio Committee for Communications on 18 April 2019. Of note:
- The current vacancy rate is 5.9% with 24 positions frozen until September 2018 as part of the regulator’s cost-cutting exercises. These positions include General Manager Engineering and Technology, which is a key position.
- ICASA believes digital migration will be completed by June 2019.
- Key projects for the year ambitiously include:
- Complete Phase I of the licensing of High Demand (IMT) Spectrum
- Complete the licensing of a Free to Air Commercial Television Broadcasting Service
- Complete the licensing of 55% of MUX 3 Spectrum for Free to Air Broadcasting Services
- Complete the licensing of 45% of MUX 3 Spectrum for Subscription Broadcasting Services
- Finalise the development of a position paper on Equity Ownership and Historically Disadvantaged Persons.
- Development of a new conformity assessment framework for equipment authorisations
- Conduct a market review in terms of section 67(4) of the ECA (market identified in priority markets study)
- Review of 2014 Call Termination Regulations
- Conduct a Study on the role of ICASA on Cybersecurity
- Conduct regulatory impact assessment studies
- Revision of the radio frequency spectrum migration plan
- Revision of IMT Roadmap o Development of Radio Frequency Spectrum Assignment Plans
- Recommendations on SA’s readiness for 5G
- Implementation of the TV Whitespaces Regulations
- Research on regulatory frameworks for dynamic and opportunistic spectrum management
The prospects for ICASA becoming more effective are not good. The presentation noted the following in respect of budgetary constraints:
A total amount of R124 734 391.49 was surrendered to National Revenue Fund as required by National Treasury Instruction note 6 of 2017/18. Included in this transfer was R61 997 549 which was allocated to cover relocation cost and R36 661 798.00 which was allocated to ICASA as a Start-up Fund. These budget cuts left the Authority with a huge budget deficit which will have a negative impact on the implementation of the Mandate. The Authority is reviewing the 2018-19FY APP with a view to motivating for amendments to remove projects that could be unfunded.
ICASA identification of priority markets
Reminder that comments on ICASA’s Discussion Document identifying three markets for prioritised intervention under Chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act are due by 25 April 2018.
Dynamic Spectrum Access / Television White Spaces
The Department of Communications presentation on its Annual Performance Plan in Parliament on 17 April 2018 included the following targets:
- End March 2019: manage analogue signal transmission switch-off in five coastal provinces
- End March 2020: manage analogue signal transmission switch-off in the remaining inland provinces
- End March 2021: evaluate the impact of the analogue transmitters switched off in the nine provinces
Control and ownership of ICASA service licences
Previously-postponed public hearings forming part of ICASA’s inquiry into control, ownership and transformation issues have been rescheduled for 16-17 May 2018.
Communications regulator ICASA has taken the first step to possibly introducing digital radio broadcasting in South Africa through the publication of a discussion document on digital sound broadcasting services.
Online Content Regulations
The .za Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) is requesting Expressions of Interest for the provision of registry services for .ZA second level registrations. This process will run in parallel to the discussion document and is intended to assist ZADNA in understanding suitable SLR registry business model and registry system options.
Interested parties are invited to comment by 12 May 2018, 12h00 for the attention of Mr. Vika Mpisane (Chief Executive Officer of ZADNA) by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Film and Publications Amendment Bill
No update: the Bill remains before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) – no date has been scheduled for its consideration.
Audio-Visual and Digital Content Policy
In its Annual Performance Plan presentation, the Department of Communications named the development of an Audio-Visual and Digital Content Bill as its first priority. The Department stated that it commenced this process in the 2016/17 financial year and that the White Paper was drafted in 2017. The current status is that a Bill will – “after various consultations” – be submitted to Parliament for consideration. Nobody should be holding their breath…
Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill
This Bill was formally introduced into Parliament on 13 April 2018 and will be published for public comment in the next few months. The Bill does not specifically target online content but defines “communications” as including “electronic communications”.
he article “2016 v 2018” linked to in the next column is a helpful summary of the differences between this version of the Bill and its predecessor.
Film and Publication Board
The FPB also presented its Annual Performance Plan to the Communications Portfolio Committee on 18 April 2018.
- The FPB plans to conduct 750 inspections per quarter to check compliance with requirements for online content. The vast majority of enforcement action, however, remains targeted at physical distribution platforms.
- Under its Programme 4 – “Effective and innovative regulation of the content distributed on online and related platforms to protect children and inform the general public” – there is no substantive activity planned with the only line items relating to systems availability and the continued functioning of their OCR system.
The Tanzanian government has enacted a controversial set of regulations setting out rules applicable to application services licensees, bloggers, Internet cafés, online content hosts, online forums, online radio or television, social media, subscribers and user of online content and any other related content service. The regulations came into force in March 2018.
To register and obtain a three-year licence as a provider of online content services (which includes bloggers, podcast providers) will cost an initial 100 000 Tanzanian Shillings (TZS) (ZAR533) in application fees together with an annual licence fee of 1 000 000 TZS (ZAR5 330). The cost of being a blogger in Tanzania for three years is now 3 100 000 TZS (ZAR16 500).
The extent of the control permitted – together with inherent scope for misapplication through appeals to “prevailing norms”, “cultural standards” and the like – is audacious.