The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) recently seized radio communication equipment from WBS/iBurst at six Gauteng sites, leaving thousands of businesses and consumers without Internet connectivity.
The reason behind this action, ICASA explained, is that WBS was in “non-compliance with regard to the collection of outstanding radio frequency licence fees”.
However, iBurst CEO Thami Mtshali told MyBroadband that they were still in negotiations with ICASA regarding their license fees – a claim which is substantiated by a letter from ICASA chairman Stephen Mncube.
Mtshali added that ICASA cannot tell them how much they owe in license fees, and that they have not been furnished with an official invoice.
ICASA was asked about these allegations, but the regulator did not respond to these questions.
A big problem for telecoms companies is that ICASA cannot even say whether companies should adhere to its regulations, or give clarity on the regulations it produced.
Take the ADSL regulations, for example. These regulations were published in August 2006, but most ADSL service providers ignored these regulations from the start.
When ICASA was asked what some of the regulations require of ADSL providers, the regulator could not give clarity on these finer details.
Even Telkom, who was one of the only companies to try to implement these poorly worded regulations, has now stopped adhering to the ADSL regulations.
Telkom explained that the evolution of network infrastructure means that the ADSL regulations are outdated. The company is trying to engage with ICASA to create improved and more transparent broadband regulations.
Mixed messages from ICASA
When ICASA was asked in October 2012 whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should adhere to the ADSL regulations, the regulator did not answer the question.
Over the years MyBroadband has asked numerous ICASA councillors the same question at telecoms events, and the answer is usually “No comment” or “I cannot answer that question”.
So while ICASA is not willing to even say whether one set of regulations should be adhered to, they are willing to take down a whole network because another set of regulations is allegedly not adhered to.
This uncertainty is not good for the telecoms industry, and a single, clear message regarding regulatory compliance is needed from ICASA. They can start with the ADSL regulations.