NATIONAL NEWS - The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill has been withdrawn in parliament.
The bill was aimed at reducing data costs, but in a blow to the “Data must fall” movement, which has been around since 2016 and has seen various organisations club together in an attempt to get government to regulate data costs in the hope of reducing them, the bill will not be finalised this term, and so has been removed in order to enable further consultations.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has released a statement about her decision to withdraw the bill, which is available on the South African government’s website.
“We need a holistic forward-looking approach instead of ad hoc amendments to the existing legislation,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
“Preliminary engagements have commenced with some of the stakeholders and this will continue in the near future, with emphasis on the need for active collaboration, underpinned by the non-negotiable quest to create an inclusive and people-centred Fourth Industrial Revolution and the digital economy,” she elaborated.
The bill was first tabled in parliament in October of last year.
The department of telecommunications and postal services announced in August last year that it was working with mobile operators including Vodacom and MTN in an attempt to offer less expensive data prices.
Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele’s spokesperson, Siya Qoza, said government regularly encouraged the big cellular networks to lower their prices.
“Government acknowledges that the operators in this sector need to make a reasonable return on their investment, but this must be balanced by the need to get more South Africans on the internet,” said Qoza.
“Government’s policy is oriented towards encouraging competition in the sector because we believe the prices will come down when we have more players in the market,” he continued.