Telecommunications regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has called for written comments on the review of the Information and Communications Technology Covid-19 National Disaster Regulations.
The issues of consultation in the submissions must include the temporary assignment of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) radio frequency spectrum to address challenges posed by the pandemic, current radio frequency spectrum sharing arrangements and obligations relating to temporarily assigned IMT radio frequency spectrum in respect of school connectivity and/or virtual classrooms obligations.
Other issues that also must be included are type-approval relaxation measures, and broadcasting services and related matters, such as suspension of obligations for convening of annual general meetings for community broadcasters and the requirements for local content programming.
Icasa encourages civil society organisations, consumer groups, independent production companies and all interested stakeholders to participate in this process so that the regulator can have a holistic overview of issues that must be addressed by these regulations.
“This is an opportunity for all of us to sift through and identify what is really pressing and compelling for the benefit of the South African public. We also need to measure the impact of our regulatory interventions in the broader industry and the regulated sector as a whole, including consumer protection and benefits,” says Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
Written representations on the review of the regulations must be submitted to Icasa by 16:00 on May 7.
The temporary release of high-demand spectrum to licensees was aimed at mitigating the impact of the National State of Disaster, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, mainly by easing network congestion, maintaining good quality of broadband services and enabling licensees to lower the cost of access to consumers.
“Mobile network operators must continue to provide services to the public during the National State of Disaster, and may derive commercial value from this high-value spectrum resource assigned to them on a temporary basis,” Modimoeng says.
“Therefore, the authority needs to apply itself with care and circumspection on the provisions of these regulations, and the temporary spectrum extensions in particular, and in a manner that is justifiable and primarily beneficial to the consumers of electronic communications, broadcasting and postal services.
“The approach we have undertaken is quite comprehensive because we have learned a lot since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic about regulating in a time of crisis,” he notes.