The country’s data prices are “daylight robbery” and need to be halved, radio personality Thabo “Tbo Touch” Molefe told MPs on Tuesday.
Data did not have to be free, but it had to be affordable, the owner of online radio station Touch Central told Parliament’s telecommunications and postal services committee, during public hearings on the cost of communication in the country.
What he and his business partner Gareth Cliff would like to see were students who were not able to make it to class, being able to access lessons online, on YouTube for example.
Textbooks and grant applications were available online, but some young people did not have access to this information as they did not have access to reasonably-priced data.
Molefe and Cliff were the last in a long string of presenters on Tuesday. All bemoaned the high cost of data in the country.
Service providers would make their presentations to MPs on Wednesday.
Molefe’s #datamustfall campaign had been in the spotlight for a week, with more than 120 million interactions in that time, he told the committee.
Cliff and Molefe insisted their #datamustfall campaign was not hostile towards network providers.
“We are not going to march to any of the networks headquarters. It’s hurting the rich, average, middle income and the poor,” Molefe said.
He called for the price of data to be regulated. As an example, he said one network provider charged R149 for 1 gigabyte.
“This is daylight robbery. They know very well it’s possible to cut prices without people in those companies losing jobs.”
He proposed that networks halve their data prices.
“It’s possible, unless they want to still have nice packages and bonuses and go abroad come festive season,” he said.
It was impossible for small business owners, for example, to make free calls between the midnight to 5am “happy hour” or for students to talk to lecturers, he said.
“If networks can afford that, to open up those hours for free, it tells you in their balance sheet how much profit they could afford to give away.”
‘Networks should be paying us’
Molefe said networks in other countries were paying companies like Touch Central to come up with such apps, because increasingly people were using data for more than just social media.
“Networks should be paying us. They know between 06:00 and 09:00, there is a guy who has 1.4 million followers on Twitter. All this money goes to networks. They control the streaming between us, the content providers, and our listeners, and we don’t even charge them.”
As a parting short, Molefe urged the committee to be tough on the network providers.
“Don’t be nice to them please,” he said.