Icasa consults on data costs

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is in consultation with the National Consumer Commission and the Competition Commission amongst other stakeholders to find ways in which mobile data can be made more affordable in South Africa.

In his inclusive growth action plan presentation on Thursday‚ Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba highlighted that as part of his telecommunications mandate‚ his office will direct the Competition Commission to investigate the high cost of mobile Internet data in the country.

According to Paseka Maleka‚ Icasa spokesperson‚ the organisation gave its stakeholders 45 days to make submissions on a questionnaire in respect to an inquiry on the high prices of data.

“The reduction in the cost of data will be dependent on the outcome of the market review process‚ which is the next phase of the priority markets study. Icasa has legislative powers to impose appropriate remedies (which may include price regulation) through regulations on operators found to have significant market power in the relevant market where competition is found to be ineffective.

“The purpose of the study is to identify relevant wholesale and retail markets (which may include broadband markets) in the electronic communications sector that Icasa will prioritise for future market review in terms of section 67(4) of the Electronic Communications Act‚” said Maleka.

Last year Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele asked Icasa to commence an inquiry and to prescribe regulations to ensure effective competition in broadband markets.

This year he requested Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel to ask the Competition Commission to also look into high data costs with a view to identifying measures to reduce these costs. Both regulators are expected to work together in their complementary investigations.

“Government believes that lowering the costs of data will stimulate economic growth by enabling entrepreneurs to tap into the internet to innovate‚ source cheaper inputs and sell their products to a wider market. All this can help entrepreneurs to be more profitable and hopefully create jobs‚” said Siya Qoza‚ spokesperson for the Telecommunications Minister.

In its 2002-2013 information and technology study StatsSA found that the wealthiest households and those living in formal dwellings and in metropolitan areas were much more likely to access the internet at home than their poorer peers in informal or traditional dwellings and rural areas.

“Although mobile technology offers improved parity‚ internet access was‚ however‚ still skewed by geographical location (lower in rural areas) and socio-economic status (positively associated with household income and living standard)‚” said the report.

In September 2016 radio personality Thabo “TboTouch” Molefe was invited to address the parliamentary portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services on his social media campaign against high data costs.

Then in June 2017‚ Twitter was set alight when the controversial poet Ntsiki Mazwai asked social media users to not buy data or log in on the platforms in protest against data charges.

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