Icasa’s spectrum auction prompts legal action by telecoms minister
The department of telecommunications and postal services (DTPS) minister, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele has said that he will take legal action against the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) over its decision to auction off spectrum.
Earlier this month, Icasa invited companies to apply for licenses to the spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2 600MHz bands. The spectrum had a minimum bidding price of R3bn and is meant to deliver high-speed wireless broadband to urban and rural areas.
According to the DTPS, Dr. Cwele has met with Icasa twice since the announcement and no amicable solution had been reached. “Icasa was furthermore not prepared to subject itself to the intergovernmental cooperation governance procedures,” the DTPS said in a statement.
Benefit all the people
The decision to take Icasa to court is not simply government muscle flexing. The spectrum would go a long a way to speeding along projects such SA Connect, so the correct procedures must be followed.
“The position of Government is that it is the custodian of spectrum which is a national and public resource and whose utilisation must benefit all the people of South Africa,” said the DTPS.
Despite the government being in the process of compiling a policy surrounding spectrum, this process is ongoing and there is no concrete policy as yet.
“The Minister is concerned that Icasa’s invitation to apply for the auctioning of the spectrum was issued without consultation and prior notification to Government as the policy maker,” the DTPS statement said.
The department goes on to say that Dr. Cwele is challenging Icasa to protect the companies who may wish to bid for the spectrum. The minister does not want companies to hand over a large sum of money for spectrum it may not really own in the eyes of the law.
We understand that this stalls the process of connecting every South African citizen to the internet, but if the department is too be believed, this all could have been avoided if the correct procedures had been followed.[Source – DTPS]