ISP loses court battle for equality with Telecom

25 Aug 2011

ISP AfricaOnline Namibia – through its subsidiary MWeb Namibia – has lost an appeal in the Supreme Court in which it attempted to win equal rights with incumbent Telecom Namibia, after a judge rejected the case on the basis of the state-backed PSTN operator’s remit of providing nationwide universal services. The privately-owned ISP – part of the Telkom South Africa group – had called Namibia’s Posts & Telecommunications Act of 1992 unconstitutional in that it requires all telecoms companies except Telecom Namibia to apply for licences for all commercial services, while the incumbent is not covered by the same legal guidelines on fees (including ADSL internet charges) that other ISPs must adhere to. Through its appeal MWeb wanted the Supreme Court to prohibit Telecom from continuing to provide wholesale ASDL services to MWeb at the same price that the state-backed telco charges the public for the same service, wrote local newspaper The Namibian. The judge expressed sympathy for MWeb’s argument that Telecom was unfairly competing by charging identical prices for wholesale and retail connections, but concluded that ‘taking into account the historical context in which Telecom Namibia was created to provide telecommunications services to all of Namibia, it becomes clear that a law which may appear to have a monopolistic effect in economic terms and therefore to be contrary to the public good when viewed simplistically, was in fact designed to promote the public good.’