New bill to increase powers of regulator

5 Dec 2003

The South African cabinet has this week approved a draft Convergence Bill designed to give the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) greater independence from the government and a higher degree of financial self-sufficiency. Under the new proposals, which are currently being passed to industry players for comment, Icasa would not have to gain approval from central government before passing regulations, and would receive up to 50% of the cost of every licence that it issued. The regulator is currently funded directly by the treasury, an agreement it claims not only slows down the licensing process, but one which also leaves it seriously out of pocket every year. The new Convergence Bill also contains proposals to change the type of licences that the regulator can issue. Under current regulations the country’s telecoms operators are restricted in the type of technology they can use to provide services by the terms of their concessions. The new bill proposes to adopt a fresh approach whereby companies will be awarded licences to offer certain services, such as cellular or fixed line communications, but are free to choose the technological means with which to provide the services. The bill is scheduled to be passed next year provided it meets no opposition from parliament.

South Africa