Message to Vodacom and MTN: “Cut your data prices, or else”

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services conducted a two-day hearing on South Africa’s mobile data costs, following the #DataMustFall social media campaign.

After these hearings, the authorities sent a strong message to the mobile operators: Cut your mobile data prices, or we will do it for you.

The Star reported that Mmamoloko Kubayi, chairperson of the portfolio committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, said the operators have a month to ‘get their act together’.

“Either they trim data costs, or the National Assembly will order them to do so,” The Star reported her as saying.

“Operators can individually restructure their data plans between now and November, or wait for our recommendation when we would make a pronouncement on what should happen with the high data prices,” said Kubayi.

The #DataMustFall campaign was started by Tbo Touch, CEO of TouchCentral FM, when he gave mobile networks 30 days to make a change to their mobile data prices in mid-September.

The campaign quickly gained momentum, and within a week it reached the South African Parliament in the form of the hearings into mobile data prices.

Touch, the Right2Know Campaign, and others argued that local mobile data prices are prohibitive, and are stifling South Africans’ right to communicate.

Mobile operators retorted, saying while they are in favour of lower prices, it is challenging in an environment where they are starved of spectrum, and where the weak rand means network rollouts are costly.

Members of Parliament could now the take the debate further than just a portfolio committee hearing, by launching a debate on the topic in the national assembly.

“The committee will deliberate on the submissions made and draft a report, hoping that all parties will support it,” said Kubayi.

“The committee will further appeal to the whipery and the presiding officers to have this matter debated in the national assembly,” Kubayi added.

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Message to Vodacom and MTN: “Cut your data prices, or else”