Communications minister Dina Pule recently said that she does not want impose a local loop unbundling (LLU) timeline on ICASA which does not suit them, given that the regulator has not “not yet started” the LLU process.
These comments came only two months after ICASA proudly claimed that they met the Department of Communications’ (DoC’s) deadline of November 2011 to ‘complete and implement LLU’.
The issue is becoming rather confusing with ICASA, on the one hand, claiming success on meeting the DoC’s LLU deadline and the minister on the opposite end stating that “ICASA has not yet started”.
The fact that the regulator and the minister appear to be getting their wires crossed should set off warning bells. But there is more.
Instead of implementing and completing the LLU process by November 2011 as required by the DoC’s policy decision in 2007, ICASA merely published a findings document which is essentially a list of deadlines for more investigations, committee meetings and consultation processes.
Some of these deadlines, like ICASA’s commitment to address the high ADSL IPConnect charges by 31 March 2012, gave consumers and ISPs a glimmer of hope. But ICASA’s lack of clarity may just dash these hopes.
When the regulator was asked what they meant when they said “ICASA will engage with industry to reduce the price of Telkom’s IPConnect (IPC) service. This will be from 31 March 2012”, they told MyBroadband that they are engaging with Telkom on the matter.
“ICASA has engaged Telkom in respect of a price reduction for IPConnect services. Once discussions have been finalised, the Authority will inform all stakeholders of changes in the wholesale access regime for fixed line services,” said ICASA.
The fact that ICASA is not willing to clarify their own statements before their discussions with Telkom have been finalized raises serious questions about the regulator’s powers and independence.
‘Give ICASA the time they need’
After being given four years to implement and complete LLU one would expect the DoC to turn up the heat on ICASA to get LLU in place as soon as possible. Not so.
Pule said “I want to give ourselves two years, given the fact that ICASA has not yet started.” The communications minister added that “They [ICASA]are going to do their studies and they are going to come back and make recommendations. At a policy level we can then redirect them to implement LLU if we need to do so.”
Pule highlighted that ICASA should be given all the time they need. “I really do not want us to give them [ICASA] a timeline which does not necessarily suit them until they come back to us and say they are ready,” said Pule.