By Kathy Gibson, Satnac 2013, Stellenbosch – There have been too many delays in setting South Africa’s broadband policy, and it’s time to move forward.
This is the word from Yunus Carrim, minister of communications, speaking at the Satnac 2013 conference in Stellenbosch today, who invited delegates to hold him to a promise to deliver a policy by the end of November this year.

The theme for the conference this year is Broadband: a catalyst for sustainable economic development and promoting digital inclusion.

Carrim points out that most citizens have no Internet access at all, never mind broadband. Broadband can fundamentally change the way we live, work, learn and play, he says.

“Countries that have a bb plan benefit significantly. It reinforces the urgent need for us to get our act together and quickly.”

Countries with plans implement broadband penetration quicker than those without, at cheaper rates. and as many as 134 countries have plans.

“As government we are interested how bb can impact people. We are aiming for a green paper within three months and a white paper by the election next year.”

The economic and social benefits are more likely to be realised with close co-operation between industry and government, he adds.

“As you know, a sustainable future can be created though the proliferation of ICT and broadband,” says Carrim. “The ITU broadband commission has set a number of targets to reduce cost and increase access. It aims for 40% of households to have Internet access; and internet user penetration to reach 60% worldwide.”

Our current bb policy has been offered to parliament on 20 August. There is a draft and within 10 days it will be finalised by the DoC, after which it will be communicated to other departments. By the end of November, a policy will be delivered – hold me to that.

“Spectrum policy will be delivered by the end of March,” he adds.

Broadband is currently being delivered in unco-ordinated ways, which often leads to duplication of resources in the same place. However, there is an opportunity to use existing networks – roads etc – to roll out broadband infrastructure.

Broadband will encourage local content which will drive the delivery of services in healthcare and education, Carrim says.

Government cannot do it alone, he adds, asking why the ICT industry is lagging behind. “We need more co-operation between industry and government, but also other stakeholders.”

He questions whether industry has kept prices artificially high. “The question of cost is also important. The issue of predatory pricing needs to be addressed.

“Why is it that South Africans are charged higher by South African companies who behave differently in other countries. We need more dialogue on this.”