The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has been formally recognised by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda as an industry representative body for Internet service providers in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2002 (ECT Act).
The ECT Act gives ISPs immunity from third-party content carried over, or hosted on their networks. It also sets out a take-down notice procedure, to allow for legitimate complaints about unlawful content to be sent to ISPs.
According to the Act, ISPs only gain legal protection if they are a member of an Industry Representative Body (IRB) that is recognised by the Minister of Communications.
"ISPA is proud to be the first industry body recognised," says Lynne Orrock, joint-chair of ISPA and chair of ISPA's Code of Conduct working group. "The incoming Minister's prompt attention to our application inspires us with confidence."
"ISPA has worked closely with the Department of Communications to make sure that our Code of Conduct is of a high standard and that members are compliant. It is a significant boost to ISPA that our members now have the legal protections set out in the ECT Act.
"We hope our recognition will encourage ISPs who are not yet members to apply for ISPA membership. We make it as easy as possible for new members to become compliant with the Code, with an extensive online toolkit to assist them in developing things like privacy policies and acceptable use policies for their customers."
ISPA represents more than 150 ISPs and is the largest representative body for companies licensed by Icasa to provide communications services in South Africa. ISPA implemented a Code of Conduct in 2002, allowing customers of ISPA's members to lodge complaints if their ISP does not uphold the Code.
In 2008, ISPA processed more than a hundred complaints and take-down notices. The majority of the complaints lodged (80%) were successfully resolved between the customer and the ISPA member without requiring independent adjudication.
"ISPA hopes that the protections offered by the ISPA Code will encourage the public to choose ISPA members as their service providers," says Orrock. "Minister Nyanda's support in recognising ISPA make us optimistic about the future of the Internet industry."