South Africa’s Internet Service Provider Association (ISPA) has urged government to build a monument to the future by tripling its proposed R1,1-billion broadband investment, while also providing roll-out specifics.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene allocated R1,1-billion to the expansion of broadband connectivity in “government institutions and schools” in his inaugural Budget Speech in February. There is currently no detail on how government intends to roll out the network.
“The Finance Minister told us that government plans to spend the equivalent of a New York penthouse on boosting broadband penetration this year. That’s not enough, especially when one considers that Government spent the equivalent of 30 New York penthouses on arms almost 20 years ago,” says ISPA chair Graham Beneke.
“ISPA respectfully calls on the Finance Minister to spend the run-up to the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (Mini Budget) in October ironing out the details of government’s currently vague and insubstantial commitment to boosting South Africa’s broadband penetration.
“Aside from providing specifics, ISPA is hopeful the Minister will see fit to up the stated broadband investment in light of high-speed technology’s proven ability to boost poverty-reducing GDP growth. Broadband is not a plaything for the well-off. Fast, affordable access to communication services and the Internet is becoming a utility, as important for South Africa to function as water and power,” Beneke says.
“Government is eyeing 100% broadband connectivity by 2020. If government wants to get increasingly involved in establishing broadband networks, then ISPA would like to ensure that this was done on an open access basis and made available to ISPs and other service providers to compete on.
“Broadband infrastructure investments rolled-out by Telkom should become leasable by other ISPs via Telkom’s wholesale division. This would ensure that broadband penetration is evened out and all bona fide industry players have an equal opportunity to expand SA’s broadband network,” Beneke adds.
According to the former department of communications’ presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications, in 2013, 33,3% of the South African population had Internet access. It should be noted, however, that the vast majority of the population accesses the web via relatively slow and expensive 3G mobile phone connections and that use of this access is limited by cost.