Local loop unbundling (LLU) has been delayed in South Africa for many reasons, and Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim, has indicated that it may yet be a while before any more progress is made.
Responding to questions put to him during a Google Hangout hosted by Mail & Guardian, Carrim said that they will have a further discussion on what must be done within two weeks.
However, they have to tread very carefully, Carrim said.
“Because Icasa is the regulator. You’ll be the first people who will actually make a noise about it if the Ministry is being to active or vocal about it,” Carrim told a representative from Google South Africa.
Carrim went on to highlight three things that were holding up LLU in South Africa.
Firstly, the policy directive Icasa is working within was done in 2007 and things have moved on since then, Carrim said.
“We think there is need for a new policy directive in this regard and that’s what we are preparing,” Carrim said. “But we want Icasa to feel at ease about this.”
Secondly, some of the regulations have been contested “yet again” by Telkom, Carrim said.
“Instead of going to court why can’t we sit around the table?” Carrim asked. He said that they will be trying to discuss the issue with various stakeholders over the next 6 weeks or so.
“Why can’t we discuss this by recognising our distinct specific niches and not intruding on each other?” Carrim asked.
Carrim went on to say that these discussions would need to recognise the independence of Icasa, the concerns and needs of Telkom, government’s need to address this matter, and the consequences it will have including possibly reducing the cost to communicate.
Thridly, Carrim said they have to recognise that Telkom is crucial to the national interest of South Africa, even though it is publicly listed.
“We can’t just say Telkom can do what it wants,” Carrim said. “It has the backbone, the infrastructure … to make possible all the things you and we want. So we have to tread very carefully. It’s a very sensitive area.”
“It’ll be useful because we can take some of this to Icasa and into the discussions we’re going to have with Telkom as well,” Carrim said. “No doubt you’ve made representations on this before, but we are again, there’s a new face…”
LLU won’t be resolved easily
Carrim went on to assure the Google representative that LLU is not a matter that is going to be resolved easily.
“This is not like the other issues that I’ve raised where I’m offering deadlines on behalf of the Ministry and the department,” Carrim said.
“On this one my answer to you, in short, is that it is complex,” he added.
Carrim admitted that he personally doesn’t understand the full range of issues involved.
“I’m making no commitment it’s going to be resolved overnight, but what I can commit to is that we’re going to ask the parties concerned to try to settle this reasonably soon,” he said.
“Insofar as our role is concerned in providing policy directives, that’ll come soon,” he concluded.