The world around us has changed drastically in the last week and for many people that change is stressful.

With many companies now recommending employees work from home, the price of data is surely a concern and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) recognises that.

The authority expects the usage of data to surge as folks begin to work and learn from home.

“In this context it is therefore critical that the Authority consider regulatory concessions or relaxations to enable the sector to meet the demands of the business unusual environment occasioned by the pandemic,” Icasa’s acting chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said in a statement.

In light of this, Icasa has requested network service providers “to heed the call to enable the country to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, by facilitating easy and affordable (and/or free) access to data.”

In return, Icasa has said it will engage with the sector to explore possible way to make spectrum available for the duration of the declared state of disaster.

Should network operators wish to tailor packages for customers, Icasa wil waive the tariff notification filing to enable the speed up rollout of packages.

As regards broadcasters, Icasa has said that all individual and class broadcasting services will be required to make public service announcements about COVID-19 in the public interest as required by authorities.

Subscription broadcasting services have been asked to open both their audio and television bouquets to non-subscribers as this will assist in access to information. In that regard, MultiChoice has made several 24 hour news channels available for free via DStv Now.

TV Whitespaces – is it finally happening?

The final section in Icasa’s notice hit us from left field because we had abandoned all hope of seeing TV Whitespaces (TVWS) used for broadband connectivity.

It seems however, as if a pandemic has lit a fire under Icasa and it has issued a call to service providers who are able to use TVWS for data services.

“In order to ensure that rural and marginalised communities are also catered for during this period, ICASA calls on all service providers who meet the proposed minimum certification requirements to make use of the database for purposes of providing affordable and/or free access to data to rural consumers during this period,” said Icasa.

This is a pretty big deal and we hope that this energy from Icasa is carried through beyond the 90-day state of national disaster.

“The Authority believes that these measures are critical during this period of declared state of disaster. They are in line with the Authority’s mandate of regulating in the public interest to enable the ICT sector to implement critical measures that would see South Africans being able to deal with the pandemic,” concludes Modimoeng.

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