Guess where your “broadband taxes” are going

The National Treasury released the 2013 National Budget documents on 27 February 2013, revealing that funding for broadband in South Africa has been put on hold while a broadband strategy and rollout plan is being finalised.

The Department of Communications has been criticized in the past for its lacklustre performance, especially when it comes to deliverables like rolling out digital TV, giving operators access to spectrum and increasing broadband penetration in South Africa.

One of the biggest criticism levelled at the DoC is that it is better known for talking about things like boosting broadband than for actually implementing solutions to make a real difference.

The National Treasury’s 2013 Communications budget document reveals that not much has changed.

“…the funding for broadband is placed on hold to allow more work to be done on the broadband strategy and subsequent implementation plan,” the report stated.

But with the delay in actually improving broadband, what did the communications department spend money on when it comes to broadband? Here are some clues from the Treasury’s documentation.

  • A broadband workshop was held with relevant stakeholders on broadband interventions;
  • A broadband market study was conducted to inform the development of a funding model; and
  • Expenditure on consultants increased significantly between 2009/10 and 2012/13 for service providers who assisted the department develop the report on baseline data on broadband coverage, penetration, speed and cost, and implementing a testing centre for set top boxes.

It is clear that a large amount of money was spent on talking about broadband, hiring consultants and organising events regarding broadband.

South African citizens will have to wait longer before they can benefit from the better and cheaper broadband which the DoC has been promising.

A few broadband quotes regarding broadband from the National Treasury’s 2013 budget documents

  • Percentage of broadband penetration per year: Project began in 2010/11, as such no historical data is available. In addition, information on broadband penetration is not available for 2011/12 and a projection for 2015/16 is not available due to a lack of information on this indicator.
  • The department also plans to support national broadband objectives through the development of a broadband master plan, which will include the review of the broadband policy, and the development of a broadband strategy, implementation plan and business case with a funding model. The broadband master plan will ensure that the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders in the sector are clearly defined.
  • Delays in implementing the 112 emergency call centre project and broadband which emanated from the departmental bid adjudication committee in approving the tender as well as delays in finalising the broadband study also contributed to the decreased expenditure between 2009/10 and 2012/13.
  • Funding for broadband has been put on hold while a broadband strategy and rollout plan is being finalised.
  • Support and enable the provision of a multiplicity of ICT applications and services through the modernisation and deployment of ICT infrastructure by developing and implementing the national broadband master plan by March 2014.
  • Broadband is responsible for developing and facilitating the implementation of the ICT infrastructure broadband strategy and implementation plan, and ensures that broadband goals are achieved. In 2012/13, a report on baseline data on broadband coverage, penetration, speed and cost was developed, and the recommendations have been incorporated into the revised broadband strategy; a broadband workshop was held with relevant stakeholders on broadband interventions; and a broadband market study was conducted to inform the development of a funding model.
  • Expenditure on consultants increased significantly between 2009/10 and 2012/13 for service providers who assisted the department develop the report on baseline data on broadband coverage, penetration, speed and cost, and implementing a testing centre for set top boxes.
  • Expenditure is expected to decrease significantly; over the medium term the funding for broadband is placed on hold to allow more work to be done on the broadband strategy and subsequent implementation plan.
  • The spending focus over the medium term will be on enhancing regulatory capacity, improving access to broadband services and optimising the use of the radio frequency spectrum to extend access to affordable ICT services to all South Africans.
  • Consultants are used to provide specialised skills and capacity related to the development of the two-phased proposal on frequency migration strategy to inform the roadmap for the licensing of spectrum to support the broadband 2020 vision.
  • Number of under-serviced areas covered with broadband infrastructure: The project is put on hold pending a forensic audit of the entity

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Guess where your “broadband taxes” are going