Icasa to tackle e-commerce

Amendments made to the ICASA Act and Electronic Communications Act (ECA) have brought a number of changes to the South African ICT landscape, including giving the regulator more responsibility, and slightly sharper teeth.

The amendments were signed off by President Jacob Zuma and published for information purposes in Government Gazette No. 37536 on 7 April 2014.

The Act will come into operation on a date to be proclaimed by the President in the Government Gazette.

Icasa Act changes

A small but significant change to the sectors listed under Icasa’s rule will now see “electronic transactions” fall under Icasa’s jurisdiction.

Under the new laws, Icasa will regulate the e-commerce sector under the Electronic Transactions Act.

The amendment act also allows for the authority to add more terms and conditions to its services and licence distributions.

Additionally, the new laws see a significant increase in the fines Icasa is able to impose on offenders – with previous amounts ranging from R15,000 – R250,000 shooting up to between R500,000 and R5 million.

Icasa must also compile and publish a code of ethics within 180 days of the amendment act being signed into law, which will address Icasa’s governance principles as well as outline various commitments.

Half-price Internet access

According to amendments made in the ECA, Internet services provided to all public health establishments and all public and independent schools and colleges will have to be provided at a minimum 50% discount.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Connectivity charges for access to the Internet;
  • Charges for any electronic communications facilities used for or in association with connectivity to the Internet; and
  • All call charges for access to the Internet.

The spectrum question

While questions still linger over the ability to transfer licenses, the Act amendments do, in part, address the concerns.

According to changes made in the Electronic Communications Act:

“A radio frequency spectrum licence may not be let, sub-let, assigned, ceded or in any way transferred, and the control of an individual radio frequency spectrum licence may not be assigned, ceded or in any way transferred, to any other person without the prior written permission of the Authority.”

The question of spectrum control is most pertinent in light of the possible acquisition of Neotel by Vodacom – in which the former’s held spectrum has been cited as one of its hottest selling points.

Neotel has access to 10 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band, which is coveted by other operators as it is suited to the provision of Long Term Evolution (LTE) services.

Vodacom and fixed-line business, Neotel entered into exclusive discussions regarding a potential acquisition of 100% of the shares of Neotel by Vodacom, in September 2013.

In October, it was reported that Vodacom’s proposed takeover of Tata Communications’ South Africa unit would include up to $500 million (R5.3 billion) of debt, with a total deal value pegged at R10 billion.

Many industry players, most notably MTN, and even Orange (which has a small presence in the country) have spoken out against the possibility of Vodacom acquiring Neotel’s spectrum.’

In March, Sifiso Dabengwa, group chief executive and president of MTN, objected to the idea of a transfer of spectrum between the two firms. “Its not acceptable as far as we understand,” Dabengwa said, speaking at the company’s results presentation.

“What is the rule or law that must be followed?” Dabengwa asked, adding: “For us to get in the way to block it is not the right way to do it.”

He said that there should be a law around the transfer of spectrum.

In terms of the law, should the acquisition go though, Vodacom would have to submit an application to Icasa to get approval for a licence transfer, in which case a decision will be made within 60 days.

However, more changes regarding this may still be on the cards, as Icasa has been empowered to prescribe procedures and criteria to assign, cede, share or in any way transfer or transfer control of a radio frequency spectrum licence.

Article courtesy of BusinessTech – E-commerce to be regulated by Icasa

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Icasa to tackle e-commerce