__[13 July 2017] The Minister of telecommunications and Postal Services has appointed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to undertake a study into the radio frequency spectrum assignments which will be required to establish a wireless open access network (WOAN) in South Africa.
__[10 June 2017] The “Report of the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, on its deliberations on Budget Vote 32: Telecommunications and Postal Services, and its Entities, Dated 16 May 2017” notes that there will be “phased implementation” of the White Paper with “specific priority being given to the drafting of identified Bills” such as those required for:
- The Digital Development Fund,
- The ICT Economic Regulator, and
- Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act
The Department intends to have draft ready for the required socio-economic impact assessments and public participation by the end of March 2018.
___[1 March 2017] The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has published the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Study undertaken in respect of the White Paper. The document is dated 26 February 2016.
___[17 January 2017] The engagement has been cancelled as the the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General are not available on the proposed dates.
___[9 December 2016] The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services will host a two-day engagement with industry on 27-28 January 2017. The engagement is intended to provide the Portfolio Committee with a “broad sense of issues highlighted by the Department in the White Paper”.
___[1 November 2016] Below is a link to a presentation made by the Acting Director-General of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services on 1 November 2016, which provides an overview of the White Paper and the thinking behind it.
___[3 October 2016] The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services published the Cabinet-approved National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper on 3 October 2016. This will be a central document governing the development of the electronic communications industry for the next 10-15 years.
A few things to note:
- The White Paper provides guidance as to where we are going. It has no direct impact on existing law, although it does set out requirements as to how existing law can be better utilised.
- The White Paper includes a number of policy directions issued to ICASA requiring ICASA to initiate processes immediately after the publication of the White Paper.
- The policy set out in the White Paper will now need to be translated into legislation, involving a review of existing legislation to determine whether it should be replaced or amended to give effect to the White Paper.
- For example: ICASA is to be replaced by a new economic regulator for the sector. This means that the ICASA Act will need to be repealed and a new Act drafted and guided through the Parliamentary process to establish and enable the new regulator. This is a lengthy process and it is important to note that the translation of policy into legislation is not an exact science and presents further opportunities for the shaping of implementation of policy.
- Once legislation has been amended / replaced, the new economic regulator will need to review the existing regulatory framework to ensure that it is consistent with the legislation.
- 85-90% of the content of the White Paper is not new: rather it is old policy which has not been implemented. This includes most of the rapid deployment policy and substantial elements of the radio frequency spectrum policy.
- In our view the White Paper – critically – does not propose any concrete measures for enabling the Department and the regulator – whether old or new – to lead implementation of the policy. There is little to indicate that future implementation will not be bedevilled by the problems experienced with past efforts. On the contrary there is a multiplicity of demands made on ICASA to undertake processes “immediately” or in the “short-term”.
- There is a separate process underway relating to broadcasting and content policy. This is being undertaken by the Department of Communications. While the White Paper seeks to defend this split, our view is that it is undesirable to have separate policy processes in a converging environment. It is further unfortunate that there will still be ambiguity around the dynamic interface between broadcasting and electronic communications.
The delays in finalising the White Paper have held up several other important processes: it is to be hoped that these can now move forward. But expectations should be tempered as we remain dependent on the same, failed, institutional framework for any real progress.