Affordable broadband is being promised by the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Department of Communications.
“Taking note that the Broadband Policy was adopted by Cabinet in 2010, we are in the process of completing a broadband mapping study to identify the existing broadband infrastructure and services gaps,” said Pule.
In her state of the province address Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, announced plans to connect every citizen in the Cape Town metropolitan area at network speeds in excess of 100Mbps, by 2020.
By 2014, Zille said the aim is to have connected every school and 70% of government facilities in the province to the broadband network, and also ensure that there is at least one public ICT access facility in every ward.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane recently said that the province’s G-link project aims at achieving 95% broadband coverage in the province to narrow the digital divide, roll out e-government services and grow the economy.
“The work currently underway seeks to roll out network infrastructure between 2012 and 2014,” said Mokonyane.
Talking up broadband and telecoms service delivery is however nothing new for government. Consumers and businesses have grown used to ambitious promises which seldom materialize.
In 2006 former communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said that they will provide Sentech with the money it needs to build a national wireless broadband network. To date, this promise has come to nothing.
In early 2010 former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda promised that broadband will be universally available by 2019. “We have finalized the Broadband policy whose vision is to ensure that South Africans have universal access and services to broadband by 2019,” said Nyanda.
Nyanda did not last long as the communications minister, and with his late 2010 departure, so departed his 2019 broadband promises.
When Roy Padayachie took over from Nyanda he also jumped on the broadband bandwagon, and committed to 100% broadband penetration in South Africa by 2020.
Padayachie has also left the Department of Communications, and despite the fact that the new minister is following Padayachie’s lead, details about their plans remain sketchy at best.
Nomvula’s promises are also nothing new. In 2008 Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa announced that affordable broadband access remains a priority for the Gauteng region.
“We will in the period ahead implement the G-link (Gauteng link) initiative to provide affordable broadband access to 95% of Gauteng’s people within the next five years,” Shilowa said in 2008.
The Western Cape is different: DA
Jo-Ann Johnston, acting head of department for the Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism, said that their plans are more realistic than the DoC’s 100% broadband penetration promise.
Johnston said that the Western Cape will first connect government, and then use this network infrastructure to provide broadband access to communities. This approach, argues Johnston, is more achievable than the DoC’s blanket 100% broadband promise.