Telkom’s stranglehold over the telecoms industry hurting consumers

The Internet Service Providers Association of South Africa (ISPA) recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, but Telkom’s stranglehold on the industry may have spoiled the party a bit.

“Ten years ago South Africa was ranked the 14th most connected country in the world. Today, we’ve slipped down to 37th place. The reason is the lack of choice afforded to the Internet consumer due to Telkom’s stranglehold over the industry,” said Greg Massel, Co-chair of ISPA.

When it comes to broadband the situation is worse. South Africa comes in stone last when compared to the OECD countries. The current local broadband penetration rate of 0.5% is 2700% worse than the OECD average of 13.6%.

During its 10 years ISPA has embarked on many projects, from establishing the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) to influencing South Africa’s telecommunications and Internet policies. It was however far from an easy ride, said Massel.

“ISPA’s first battle was simply for recognition. A decade ago Telkom was trying to convince SATRA (SA Telecoms Regulatory Authority) that its monopoly over voice services extended to the Internet as well. In the first setback for the telecoms monopoly, SATRA ruled that Telkom’s monopoly did not extend to the Internet Protocol, thus blocking Telkom’s attempt to extent their monopoly to include Internet access.”

The interconnection between ISP’s forms the backbone of the smooth functioning of the Internet, and here JINX is ISPA’s flagship project. “JINX enables ISPA members to interconnect their networks and exchange traffic in order to save costs,” says ISPA.

In 1996, JINX’s four links boasted speeds varying from 64 kilobytes a second to 256 kilobytes a second. Ten years later, link speeds exceed 100 megabytes a second.

Further key regulatory victories for ISPA included WiFi LANs (Local Area Networks) being declared legal and the ability of ISPA to persuade Parliament and the Department of Communications to amend the Electronic Communications & Transactions Act, the Electronic Communications Act and the Films & Publications Amendment Act to make them fairer to ISPs.

The ISPA founding meeting took place on 6th June 1996 attended by Dave Frankel of Internet Solutions, Jon Oliver of GIA, Mark Todes of Internet Africa, Steve Corkin of Sprint and Ant Brooks of Future Foundation. The Association has since grown to its current tally of 113 ISPs registered as members.

A further ISPA achievement and milestone for 2006 is the 5th anniversary of iWeek. This free event takes place from 4 – 7 September 2006 at The Castle in Kyalami, ISPA and UniForum SA’s annual gathering has evolved from being a purely South African event to a truly international conference attracting the best and brightest from the world’s Internet community.

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Telkom’s stranglehold over the telecoms industry hurting consumers