Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (Ispa). “Ten years ago SA was ranked as the 14th most connected country in the world. Today, we have slipped down to 37th place. The reason is the lack of choice afforded to the Internet consumer due to Telkom’s stranglehold over the industry,” says Greg Massel, co-chair of Ispa.

  From establishing the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) to influencing SA's telecommunications and Internet policies, Ispa has achieved a great deal for consumers and ISPs in the space of a decade, he says.

  “Ispa’s first battle was simply for recognition. A decade ago Telkom was trying to convince Satra (SA Telecoms Regulatory Authority) that its monopoly over voice services extended to the Internet as well. In the first setback for the telecoms monopoly, Satra ruled that Telkom's monopoly did not extend to the Internet Protocol, thus blocking Telkom's attempt to extent its monopoly to include Internet access,” adds Massel.

  JINX enables Ispa members to interconnect their networks and exchange traffic in order to save costs. In 1996, JINX’s four links boasted speeds varying from 64kBps to 256kBps. Ten years later, link speeds exceed 100MBps.

  Further key regulatory victories for Ispa included WiFi LANs (Local Area Networks) being declared legal and the ability of Ispa to persuade Parliament and the Department of Communications to amend the Electronic Communications & Transactions Act, the Electronic Communications Act and the Films & Publications Amendment Act to make them fairer to ISPs, Massel adds.

  The Ispa founding meeting took place on June 6 1996 attended by Dave Frankel of Internet Solutions, Jon Oliver of GIA, Mark Todes of Internet Africa, Steve Corkin of Sprint and Ant Brooks of Future Foundation. Currently 113 ISPs are members of Ispa. A further Ispa achievement and milestone for 2006 is the fifth anniversary of iWeek. This free event takes place from September 4 – 7 2006 at The Castle in Kyalami.

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