The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the action taken by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) against a Gauteng-based telecommunications company, WBS/iBurst, which allegedly owes millions of rands in outstanding licence fees.
DA shadow minister of communication, Marian Shinn, said that this action should serve as a warning to the many network providers who have exploited ICASA’s weak administration to their financial advantage.
“They are likely to feel the wrath of their disconnected customer base if they don’t make prompt arrangements to pay their outstanding fees,” Shinn said.
Shinn added that WBS’s tardiness with its fee payments was highlighted last month, when ICASA councillor Joseph Lebooa went public with the claim that his vehicle had been hijacked and he was assaulted by thugs who told him the attack was a warning from WBS to stop investigating it.
Shinn went on to explain that ICASA was taken to task last week by parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications for its inability to monitor spectrum usage by South African network providers, and to determine with accuracy exactly who owed how much to ICASA.
“Unpaid spectrum usage fees are believed to run into billions of rands,” Shinn said.
According to Shinn, ICASA chairman Dr Stephen Mncube came under fire for his weak leadership and inability to ensure that the licensing authority was properly equipped with state of the art technology to properly do its job.
“I trust that yesterday’s action is just the first in a series of actions against many spectrum licence-fee transgressors and that, when ICASA comes before the portfolio committee again later this year for a detailed update on its spectrum monitoring and fee-collection activities, significant income will have been realised from network providers’ arrears,” Shinn said.
Sound financial management of licence fees will go a long way to ensuring ICASA’s independence from government funding, Shinn concluded.