MyADSL lodged its first official complaints about Telkom’s ADSL service in February 2004 which kicked off a regulatory process that culminated in the ADSL Regulations which were Gazetted on 17 August 2007.
For many consumers and industry players the ADSL Regulations were a disappointment as they were too vague to have a material influence on ADSL provisioning in South Africa. Industry players were quick to highlight the failures in the regulations.
Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) chair Greg Massel said that “…one has the feeling that ICASA is more concerned with placing warning labels on broadband services than doing anything about the actual cost of these services.”
The widespread criticism seemed to have hit home, and soon after the ADSL Regulations were published ICASA indicated that it would revisit the ADSL regulations and would consider addressing ADSL pricing. At the time ICASA urged interested stakeholders to approach the Authority with their concerns regarding the regulations and suggestions. To date nothing has come of this promise.
Internet Solutions (IS) Regulatory Director Siyabonga Madyibi recently said that as far back as 2006 IS raised concerns with ICASA about certain aspects of the ADSL regulations that were either impossible for ISPs to comply with or totally unworkable.
“As a means to try and resolve this impasse we have repeatedly sought an audience with ICASA with a view to try and have the regulations amended in order to take these issues into consideration. However it is unfortunate to report that ICASA has not afforded us an opportunity to address them on these issues or responded to our concerns,” said Madyibi.
ICASA was recently asked whether it plans to improve on the ADSL Regulations to make them easier to enforce, but ICASA did not provide any information despite numerous attempts to get their view.
Behind the scenes problems?
One source close to ICASA told MyBroadband that the writing of the ADSL Regulations were outsourced to a lawyer who was not directly involved in the ADSL Regulations hearings. It was further suggested that the ADSL Regulations were intentionally ‘watered down’ to avoid litigation from Telkom.
According to one of the ADSL hearing panelists, who asked to remain anonymous, the final set of ADSL Regulations were a shock to many of the panelists. According to this source the final ADSL Regulations did not contain many of the points discussed in closed sessions by the ADSL panel – many of which would have provided far more consumer protection and served to make the regulations less ambiguous.
ICASA was asked whether the writing of the ADSL Regulations was outsourced, but to date the regulator remains mum on this issue. ICASA would also not comment on the accusations that the ADSL Regulations were not in line with what was discussed and agreed upon by the ‘ADSL panel’ or were intentionally watered down.
The way forward
The lack of clarity and general unenforceability of the ADSL regulations means that ICASA may be well advised to revisit the issue of ADSL provisioning in South Africa. Broadband has become an important ingredient for economic well being in current society and ADSL access forms a cornerstone of broadband access.
According to one regulatory and telecoms expert the best thing to do is to repeal the ADSL Regulations and fix the protection of consumers through placing the regulations in the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations.
Others feel that ICASA should revisit the regulations and correct the mistakes made in the drafting of the final document. This includes plugging up the loopholes in the current regulations and ensuring that consumers enjoy true protection through the regulations.
ICASA was asked whether they intend to revisit the ADSL regulations, but once again the telecoms regulator did not provide feedback despite numerous requests.
ICASA ADSL Regulations discussion