Draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill
The Department intends holding public hearings at which selected respondents to the Bill will be invited to present on 5 and 6 March in Pretoria.
The majority of submissions we have seen to date – see links, we will collect more – continue the argument on the merits and demerits of the National ICT Policy White Paper (“the White Paper”) notwithstanding that that document has received final approval from Cabinet and is not up for debate.
Perhaps the key issue running through all of these submissions is concern about the interdependence between this Bill and the mooted ICT Sector Commission and Tribunal Bill which will set out how ICASA is to be disbanded and replaced by a new regulator. The latter is only expected to be published by the end of March 2018, creating a difficulty in that the two documents really need to be read and finalised together. The implication is that the new regulator will be charged with implementation of the provisions of the Bill once it is up and running.
At this stage our prediction for 2018 is that none of the Bills presented will be finalised. We see a further 3-5 years of continued ineffective regulation (on the part of ICASA and the DTPS anyway, the Competition Commission may have other ideas).
Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN)
In its most recent trading update, Vodacom noted that it remained “of the opinion that a hybrid between what is currently in place and the proposed Wholesale Open Access Network addresses the government’s transformation mandate and will have a greater impact on driving down the cost to communicate for customers compared with the proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act”.
Exactly what this “hybrid model” entails is not clear and we have no record of Vodacom having made such a proposal before. But Vodacom is correct that the WOAN is the long route to reducing the cost of mobile data and driving transformation.
Merging of the DTPS and DoC?
We have heard from a number of sources that a decision was taken at the 54th ANC National Conference in December 2017 to reverse the 2013 split of the old Department of Communications into the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the new Department of Communications.
If confirmed – the formal resolutions from the Conference are not yet available – this would be most welcome even though reintegration would take up more time and further delay any implementation of the White Paper.
Cost to Communicate
The Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises – a committee of the National Council of Provinces – will entertain a briefing on “the reduction on the cost to communicate by ICASA and key stakeholders in the communication sector” on 28 March 2018. The key stakeholders are named as Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C.
The Minister would like to see more free public Wi-Fi hotspots being rolled out as they help address issues of inequity for the communities that cannot afford data at current prices. The Minister did not address funding of more free public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Cybercrime and Cybersecurity
Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill
Clause-by-clause deliberations on this Bill have been scheduled for four days in February in Parliament’s Portfolio Committee for Justice and Correctional Services.
Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill
The Portfolio Committee on Police will look to deliberate and vote on this Bill during February.
Our information is that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development remains engaged with a comprehensive review of the Regulation of Interception and provision of Communication-Related Information Act 70 of 2002 (“RICA”). Indications are that a draft will be released for public comment towards the middle of 2018.