SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCILS SEEK PERMISSION TO OWN TELEPHONE NETWORKS

Telecoms

South African (SA) municipalities have applied for permission to set up and run their own landline telephone network. The network would be established in areas without access to the facility provided by state monopoly, Telkom.

The Local Council Information and Technology Forum of the SA Local Council Association made the recommendation in its submission on the draft Telecommunications Convergence Bill.

The forum asked that local councils be allowed to set up is own private telecommunications and fixed-line networks to connect municipalities. It said this would cut costs and improve efficiency.

"It is clearly not the business of the local government to compete with the private sector.

"As it will only compete where the development needs of the community are not addressed by the private sector," said the forum's document submitted on the Draft Convergence Bill.

The forum said the bill aimed to promote competition in communications, and make information and communications technology widely available.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the SA cellphone industry had expressed concern to the move. The industry representatives told a parliamentary committee on communications that such a move would destroy their lucrative market.

Telecoms analyst, Stephen Carrot, said giving municipalities the right to set up telecommunications network in underseviced areas would not harm the cellphone industry.

According to him, an attempt to set up a rival network of landlines would fail to take off.

"Telkom sets up 4.8 million land lines and many of them have been disconnected because of lack of demand.

"The emerging black market wants cellphones, not landlines, because of the cost and trendy", said the analyst.

He said there was also a question of whether local council could deliver on its promises, adding, "because someone is granted rights does not mean it can do it successfully," he said.

The third draft of the Convergence Bill was published in February this year.

The legislation, dogged by controversy, sought to manage the natural progression of print media, computing, telecoms and broadcasting.

The municipalities represented by the forum opposed the bill because it would not protect their rights.

They requested that the bill be modified to enable them determine the location of facilities.

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