Minister says ‘no’ but the ICASA hearings continue

It’s not always easy to get a clear picture of the South African telecommunications regulatory landscape. We made a brief mention of some developments in our Happy New Year post and now follow up on recent developments.

Earlier this week, the communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri confirmed that VANS licenses will not be converted to ECNS licenses, as reported on in this ITWeb article. This in itself is nothing new but its not clear whether the ‘no’ means ‘never’. Taking a look at the ICASA website and the latest media release, one sees that on the 17th and 18th of March ICASA will hold hearings on the matter of converting VANS licenses to ECNS

licenses. From this one can gather that the ‘no’ is in fact ‘maybe’.

Thats all very interesting, but why should consumers care? Well for one these developments affect how much choice you will have as a consumer. In fact in some areas it could come down to having no choice at all. You may be in some small town where no licensed network operator (ECNS license holder) is willing to provide you, or your local hotspot for that matter, with any kind of Internet connectivity purely because they haven’t gotten on to it, perhaps never will, and you’ll just have to wait. One should also consider that there are small network operators who are having to dedicate resources to fighting for their right to exists, at some level this must affect the quality of their service. The latter again affects you as the consumer, you are left with less choice.

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