The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is at odds with internet service providers (ISPs) over the confusion regarding licensees entering into transactions which affect their ownership structure.
Recently, the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), which represents the majority of South African ISPs, said, at the heart of this confusion is the regulator’s failure to take a clear stand on which transactions will require the regulator’s prior approval because they will have the effect of changing who controls a licence, and which transactions require the regulator to be notified within seven days of the transaction being implemented.
According to the regulator, the difference between these two processes is massive.
The regulator notes that an application for prior approval requires payment of a non-refundable application fee of US$4 049 per licence and can take eight to 15 months for the regulator to process.
However, a notification has no financial implication, and no further action is required from ICASA other than to update its records, it adds.
Dominic Cull, ISPA’s regulatory advisor, said, “We’ve had a decade of disarray because many licensees have used the wrong process, and ICASA is now ordering that licensees reverse transactions entered into more than five years ago.”
As a result, ISPA requests that the regulator implement an amnesty in respect of transactions where the required application was not made and take immediate steps to clarify its position on what constitutes a change of control over a licence.
“ISPA is seeking an amnesty allowing affected licensees to approach the regulator to regularise their position without any sanction being imposed. ICASA would still receive and evaluate applications for approvals of transfers,” Cull says.
ICASA said in response that the regulator’s legislative and regulatory framework is clear on transactions that require preceding approval from the regulator before their conclusion and those that the regulator needs to be notified of.