The industry has reacted with disbelief and concern at the news that Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri will appeal the high courts ruling on self-provisioning.
One industry player, Electronic Communications Networks (ECN) CEO John Holdsworth, describes the move as a thinly disguised attempt to protect the incumbent operators from competitiion.
"It is outrageous and unacceptable," says Holdsworth, adding that both the Communications Minister and the Department of Communications (DOC) are out of touch with the mood of the ICT industry and consumer frustrations in general.
"In a well-functioning market, competing suppliers are incentivised to reduce costs, pass reductions to consumers and innovate with new products and services," says Holdsworth. "The regulatory roadblock we've been living with has prevented this from happening in South Africa – and the ultimate loser is the long-suffering consumer who has to put up with dysfunctional suppliers and unacceptably high prices."
Referring to Matsepe-Casaburri's announcement that she will commence a process to issue a policy direction to Icasa, and that her department will expedite an amendment of the ECA, Holdsworth comments that it is exceedingly worrying that the government can seek to change regulations when it loses a court case.
"We believe Altech may appeal the appeal, but if that fails, and the minister's appeal is successful, ECN will call for an industrywide class action which we'll take right up to the Constitutional Court if necessary," he says. "We will back Altech all the way should they choose to fight this appeal."
The net effect of the appeal, Holdsworth adds, is that more than two years after the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) came into effect; no new electronic communications licenses have been issued. Nor has the regulator introduced the regulations mandated in the ECA, meaning that VANS will continue to operate in a climate of uncertainly that protects the incumbents and hampers competition.