Carrim took over as communications minister last week after Dina Pule was sacked by President Jacob Zuma in a cabinet reshuffle and despite his early comments centering around the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the new minister has already brought the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Amendment Bill to the National Assembly.
The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill has also been presented to the National Assembly.
Kathleen Rice, director of technology, media and telecommunications at law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, has praised the moves by the Department of Communications (DoC) which include a series of changes to the draft bills first tabled in 2012.
One of the features of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill is the setting up of a National Broadband Council with members appointed from both the public and private sector.
Rice said: “It seems that the National Broadband Council will be a more inclusive and representative body than the Inter-Governmental Implementation Committee proposed in the 2012 draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill.”
Broadband should prove to be a priority issue for Carrim and whoever takes on the portfolio after the 2014 general election.
The government has set itself a 100 per cent broadband penetration target by 2020, although telecommunications expert Dominic Cull told HumanIPO last week there was little hope of this being achieved.
Concerning the ICASA Amendment Bill, Rice is pleased the independence of the regulator has been preserved, despite the 2012 version proposing to remove ICASA’s ability to decide whether to implement ministerial policy or directions.
The original draft also suggested ICASA’s complaints and compliance committee be replaced by a commission with members appointed by the minister.
Rice said: “Of great concern to many commentators were provisions in the 2012 draft amendment bill that the commission would have extensive powers, including the power to give directions and instructions to Icasa and licensees.”
These ideas have since been removed, while the introduction of a Spectrum Management Agency, which would have impacted on ICASA’s power to assign radio frequency spectrum, has also been ditched.