Electronic Communications Bill Withdrawn From Parliament

Department of Communications

The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill has been withdrawn from parliament.

In a statement, the communications department confirmed that the bill had been withdrawn to “enable further consultations and to align it with the drive towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

The bill was tabled in parliament in September 2018.

The proposed legislation flowed from the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper.

The bill sought to:

•    amend the Electronic Communications Act, 2005, so as to provide for transformation of the sector through enforcement of broad-based black economic empowerment;
•    provide for lowering of cost of communications, reducing infrastructure duplications and encouraging service-based competition through a wireless open access network service;
•    provide a new framework for rapid deployment of electronic communications facilities;
•    provide for new approaches on scarce resources such as spectrum, including the assignment of high-demand spectrum on open access principles;
•    create a new framework for open access;
•    provide for the regulation of international roaming, including SADC roaming to ensure regulated roaming costs, quality of service and transparency;
•    provide for regular market definition and review to ensure effective competition;
•    provide for improved quality of services, including for persons with disabilities;
•    provide for consumer protection of different types of end-users and subscribers, including persons and institutions;
•    provide for enhanced co-operation between the National Consumer Commission and the Authority, as well as the Competition Commission and the Authority; and
•    provide for matters connected therewith.

Some of the issues identified as problems that the bill sought to address included a lack of balancing of rights of ECNS licensees (deployment of broadband infrastructure) with those of public and private landowners; an exclusive spectrum regime which promotes economic growth for a few players; an infrastructure market characterized by ineffective competition, infrastructure sharing bottlenecks, duplication of infrastructure and inefficient use of scarce resources and high cost to communicate due to duplication of infrastructure.

Key amendments focused on rapid deployment, spectrum, international roaming, open access and competition.

According to the department, the bill had also been withdrawn as it was unlikely to be passed by parliament before it rises at the end of March 2019.

During a meeting of the telecommunications and postal services committee in parliament, the communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, indicated that “we need a holistic forward looking approach instead of ad hoc amendments to the existing legislation.”

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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