Considering the recent developments with regards to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has written to licensees in an effort to ensure that they make communication services available to all South Africans.
ICASA is requesting all 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 this regard, the Authority is engaging the sector on possible ways of radio frequency spectrum relief for the duration of the declared state of disaster to ease congestion, ensure good quality of broadband services, and enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers (particularly in relation to education, emergency and other social services).
Furthermore, to the extent that the licensees will wish to tailor packages (specifically data packages) to respond to the pandemic, the Authority will consider relaxation of the tariff notification filing requirements to enable speedy roll-out of such packages.
The subscription broadcasting services licensees have been requested to open both their audio and television bouquets to consumers who do not subscribe to their services. This will assist the public to have access to information that they cannot normally access.
Against the background of regulations on the use of TV Whitespaces, ICASA recently commissioned TV Whitespaces databases to enable the use of TV Whitespaces spectrum for the roll-out of data services, particularly in rural and remote areas. Several trials were conducted in this regard in the recent past. 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.
The full ICASA statement can be downloaded here.