After years of debate and argument South Africa finally has an official policy on universal internet access, as cabinet approved the National Broadband Policy, Strategy and Plan – aka South Africa Connect – this morning. The headline goal is to achieve 100% access at 100Mbps by 2030.
The final version of the policy hasn’t been released yet, but draft reports that were circulating a month ago also call for universal access for schools and hospitals within the next two years, and a National Broadband Network for wholesale fibre access.
The last draft called for universal access at 5Mbps by 2020, although today’s cabinet statement only suggests 90% coverage within the same time frame. It does, however, include the caveat that “The rapid evolution of broadband technology means that these targets will be reviewed annually.” This is something we know Communications Minister Yunus Carrim was arguing for.
The difficult part of the new policy will, of course, be implementing it. There are still huge questions around Local Loop Unbundling and a potential legal battle with Telkom to look forward to, as well as the technical merits of a suggestion in the policy that an open access wireless network should be developed with an eye to national coverage.
In addition, Cabinet also approved the appointment of three new members of staff to the Department of Communications with ICT briefs.
We’ll publish the policy in full as soon as we can.
(Image – Yunus Carrim at a broadband policy workshop)