Press release: ISPA eager to see more connectivity in under-serviced areas, questions Infraco’s progress in meeting its licence conditions

Published on: 2011-07-26

Return to press release index

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) understands the importance of delivering educational services to rural and underserviced areas using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). To this end, the organisation’s longstanding Train the Teacher programme has trained close some 2 238 educators in schools in under-serviced areas since its inception in 2001.

Notwithstanding some progress over the last decade in extending ISPA is still finding that there is a huge need for affordable broadband services accessible from these schools. Furthermore, according to ISPA’s Regulatory Advisor, Dominic Cull, there remains a massive amount of work to be done. ’We are moving from an access challenge to an affordability challenge. The role of the Universal Service Agency of SA (USAASA) and the Universal Service Access Fund (USAF) in meeting this challenge remain critical,’ he says.

“Bearing in mind the continued lack of affordable accessibility, it is disappointing that there does not appear to be any clear plan as to how these entities are meant to function. The current status of USAASA and the disbursement of funds from the USAF is certainly neither what it should be nor what we expected,” he says.

ISPA has also queried the status of two initiatives designed to ensure that all South Africans have access to affordable voice and data services.

“Part of Broadband Infraco’s mandate is the expansion of the availability and affordability of access to electronic communications network services in both developed and under-serviced areas. ISPA would like to know to what extent the company has managed to implement the roll-out plans set out in Schedules 1 and 2 of their electronic communications network service (ECNS) licence,” continues Cull.

“In particular, ISPA wishes to know whether Broadband Infraco has filed an Implementation Plan with the regulator and whether this has been approved. This plan – a draft of which was supposed to be submitted to ICASA during June 2010 – is required to set out the manner in which the company intends to establish points of presence (PoPs) in the 33 different under-serviced areas specified in its licence.”

Furthermore, says Cull, the plan is required to set out the locations of all the PoPs to be installed; the date of commencement of the roll-out of such PoPs, which should not be later than April 2011; and the detailed time periods over which such roll-out will be staggered.

“ISPA is of the view that the establishment of the required PoPs has the potential to revitalise efforts to bring affordable communications to all citizens, as ISPA members, amongst others, will be able to purchase bandwidth directly from these PoPs in order to service surrounding members. Therefore, ISPA will gladly work closely with Broadband Infraco in order to ensure that the opportunities which it creates in these areas are effectively taken up.”

The other issue highlighted by Cull is the much-delayed release of available radio frequency spectrum in the 2.6 and 3.5GHz bands. This frequency, he states, is critical to the introduction of affordable voice and broadband services in these areas, as providers utilise these frequencies to roll-out access networks. “While all the talk is about what these licences will cost: we seem to be missing how much it is costing South Africa not to issue them.”

“The government, regulator and key players such as Broadband Infraco need to work together quickly and effectively to create an enabling environment for the roll-out of services to as many underserviced areas as possible, in as short a timeframe as possible.”

“The availability of low-cost network services and bandwidth in these currently underserviced areas has the potential to revolutionise the participation of marginalised communities in the mainstream economy while securing the future of these communities through the delivery of educational and e-Government services,” concludes Cull.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.