The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has announced steady membership growth, which it ascribes to the vibrancy of the local industry, along with the fact that industry players see value in belonging to an industry association.
“The Internet Service Provider industry in South Africa faces challenges on several fronts. These include government, consumer and data privacy legislation as well as pressure for increasing service levels from a demanding customer base,” says Jaap Scholten, co-chairperson of ISPA. “A truly representative industry body like ISPA gives the industry a stronger voice. It also means that individual members can ‘outsource’ a wide range of concerns to ISPA.”
ISPA represents the largest group of licence holders in South Africa and remains the only Industry Representative Body recognised by the Minister of Communications. This status automatically gives it an advantage when interacting with both government and the regulator.
Scholten says that ISPA’s healthy membership figures are not just a reflection of its ability to represent the industry with important outside stakeholders, but the steady growth can also be attributed to the positive benefits that members receive as part of their membership.
“ISPA members have to comply with our code of conduct and that brings a number of advantages in its wake,” Scholten says. “As our members have found over the years, the code has been well structured which does not constantly place them at odds with the law or their own customers. Adhering to the code promotes sound business practices and contributes to an Internet Service Provider’s long-term wellbeing.”
The Minister’s recognition of ISPA also means that ISPA members who have adopted its Code receive some protection in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act. Chapter XI of the Act limits the liability of service providers in defined instances.
ISPA’s exchanges based in Gauteng and Cape Town, and with a Durban INX imminent, ensure that local Internet Service Providers are able to privately interconnect with each other in order to prevent local Web surfers browsing local sites having to be connected via expensive international networks.
“By exchanging local traffic in SA, web traffic to local sites does not have to leave the country’s borders on expensive bandwidth or undersea cables just to be routed back to SA. The exclusive use of local connectivity makes this much cheaper,” says Scholten. “It’s not just reduced cost—the local switching also means reduced time or latency, resulting in a better experience for users.” Since 2009, the number of service providers using the ISPA exchanges has grown from nine to above 50.
“ISPA continues to deliver value to its members, and we hope that non-members will recognise that becoming part of an industry organisation will lead to an even more successful Internet industry in South Africa,” Scholten says.