Press Release:

ISPA Welcomes New ICASA Chair, Proposes Red Tape Reduction

Published on: 2024-06-28

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ISPA, South Africa’s official internet Industry Representative Body, has welcomed new Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) Chair, Mothibi Ramusi, to the hot seat and called on him to prioritise making life easier for SMME licensees in the electronic communications industry.

ISPA believes that ICASA should consider amending the current reporting obligations, fines and fees applicable under the current regulations in order to distinguish between emerging licensees and the larger incumbent operators.

“It seems wrong that an emerging ISP has largely the same compliance obligations as Telkom or Vodacom,” says ISPA chair, Sasha Booth-Beharilal.

ISPA is a 235-member Industry Representative Body (IRB) with membership made up of both Electronic Communications Service (ECS) and Electronic Communications Networks Services (ECNS) licensees.

“ISPA has enjoyed a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship with ICASA centred on the joint desire to ensure high-quality, affordable connectivity for all South Africans.

“ISPA is advocating for a simplified approach for emerging businesses that ensures adequate consumer protection while aligning with fairness, proportionality and maintaining a competitive connectivity market,” notes Booth-Beharilal.

A 2023 Competition Commission study on Measuring Concentration and Participation in the South African Economy: Levels and Trends found that the share of SMEs of the country’s aggregate income is comparatively low and declining. Burdensome regulatory requirements take time to finalise and take SME business owners and employees away from the core business.

Under the current regulatory framework, all telecom licensees must file multiple returns, regardless of their size. These standard filing requirements impose disproportionate burdens on small licensees due to limited resources and administrative capacity.

Overseas, many regulators recognise the varying sizes of the businesses they regulate with the number of subscribers often being the assessment criteria employed. A risk-based approach to regulatory reporting is becoming the norm. Here, the scale of licensees’ operations is considered and small licensees are subject to simplified and less frequent data submission requirements that allows them to submit less comprehensive data.

In the United States – to provide one interesting example – government agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must analyse the impact of proposed regulations on small entities and consider alternatives to minimise adverse economic impacts. The South African government, for its part, recognises the importance of SMEs in the economy and has publicly expressed support for reducing compliance requirements for SMEs.

Beyond the above considerations, small operators have been instrumental in providing alternative telecoms services in underserviced areas which large operators might not typically prioritise and they often offer lower rates and personalised service specifically tailored to the unique needs of the geographical areas they serve.

ISPA has proposed a tiered approach to filing administrative returns, applicable fines and licence applications that differentiates between small and large operators. For small licensees, a simplified reporting framework with reduced data granularity could be employed with penalties revised as percentages of turnover and fees similarly revised to a two-tiered approach.

“ISPA is always open to constructive engagement with ICASA specifically and government generally to develop a framework that ensures compliance while reducing the administrative burden on small businesses,” concludes Booth-Beharilal.

Founded in 1996, ISPA is the only internet Industry Representative Body (IRB) officially recognised by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT). ISPA advocates for an open, free, and competitive internet landscape.

Further Information

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