A new Bill is set to integrate the many diverse disciplines that make up South Africa’s digital and ICT sector into a single, all-powerful entity. The draft Bill follows the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services’ ambitious Integrated ICT Policy White Paper and will give effect to its aims.

The White Paper outlined the Ministry’s plan to provide cross-government leadership; facilitate multi-stakeholder participation; reinforce fair competition and facilitate innovation in the converged environment; protect the open Internet; address the digital divide and manage scarce resources. The Bill puts forward a structured plan to translate these ambitions into actionable steps.

On presentation of the plan, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, noted that regulation is currently spread across different entities, including the Ministry, ICASA, .ZADNA, and USAASA, which has resulted in inefficient overlaps and duplication of roles in the ICT sector.

The consolidated regulator will be responsible for the following sub-sectors:

  • Electronic communications
  • Internet governance
  • Licensing and regulation of electronic communications networks and services
  • Licensing and regulation of spectrum and other scarce resources
  • Licensing and regulation of postal services
  • Ex ante competition regulation
  • Consumer protection
  • Allocation and management of domain names
  • Establishment and operation of an appeals tribunal

The Ministry also hopes to amend the Electronic Communications Act to include clear policy approaches to infrastructure rollout, supply-side issues and the allocation of resources. South Africans will also be pleased to hear that the amendment looks to lower the cost of communications through an open-access wireless network.

In the light of this new regulatory body, the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) will be dissolved and its existing incarnation will be transformed into a funding entity in support of universal service and access. This is in line with the Digital Development Fund (DDF) Bill, which gives effect to this policy objective.