Telecommunications regulation lawyer Dominic Cull has called out Vodacom and MTN for being unclear on what kind of regulation they want to see services like WhatsApp and Facebook be subjected to.
This is according to News24, which was reporting on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services’ hearing into over-the-top (OTT) services.
Mobile operators, policy makers, OTT operators, and other telecommunications industry representatives gave their views at the hearing.
The Parliamentary hearing comes after Vodacom and MTN both called for OTT services to be regulated in South Africa.
MTN has argued that services like WhatsApp piggyback on infrastructure, which service providers have invested billions of rand in, without contributing towards that investment.
OTT services also do not pay tax, MTN told the hearing.
Vodacom offered a similar argument, saying that OTT operators fall outside many of the telecoms regulations it has to comply with.
Networks skirting the issue
Cull said those in favour of regulating OTT services have skirted the issue, and not been clear about the changes they would like to see.
“The real issue is net neutrality,” said Cull.
“Once I pay for the data, a service provider cannot dictate to me how I use it or what services I access.”
“Mobile networks don’t complain about YouTube which consumes a lot of data.”
Cull also said that the growth of telecommunications operators in South Africa is being constrained.
This isn’t a reason to stifle the competition and services that run on top of a network, though, he said.
Instead, the government should allow corporate mergers aimed at giving operators access to more spectrum, and making more spectrum available to mobile networks.