By Nomali Cele
“Data Must Fall” is a phrase that has been on most South Africans’ lips in the past couple of years. We have some of the highest data prices on the continent, not to mention a few questionable practices by mobile networks. One of the data practices by the network providers that has been criticised the most is the “state” data bundle. The new Icasa regulation was proposed to put an end to that but its implementation was delayed.
On Thursday, 15 November 2018, a court ruling found that the new Icasa regulation, which network providers such sd Cell C, Vodacom and MTN had been fighting, needed a date for the new regulations to take effect. The Icasa regulation was meant to come into effect in June but network providers began counter-suits saying they needed an implementation extension.
The ruling at the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday came as a win for consumers. The court ruled that the Icasa “End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations 2018” will be implemented from 28 February 2019.
The new agreement covered three areas of interest: data bundle roll over, data transfer and inform users before going into out-of-bundle data use. The latter has been the cause of consumers’ airtime “disappearing” over the years.
High data prices and bad practices by mobile providers don’t just affect those already paying the expensive prices. High data prices especially affect poor South Africans who can’t afford to be part of the online world or access the resources and opportunities the internet offers
One organisation that has a vested interest in the outcome of the data commission of inquiry is amandal.mobi. The organisation was founded to rally South Africans to actively participate in democracy and hold leaders accountable through online petitions. It’s an advocacy platform that’s supposed to serve every South African but the sheer fact that it’s online, many can’t access it.
Over the years, amandla.mobi has hosted petitions on everything from demanding more visible policing in one of Cape Town’s townships to calls for tax-free sanitary wear. The #DataMustFall petition had over 40, 000 people take action on it — including signing and sharing it. The organisation’s spokesperson, Heather Robertson, said: “We hope that MTN and the other cell phone companies do their best to implement these regulations and put people before profits.”
So while data has not fallen, this new Icasa regulation is a big victory for consumers.
Read: Every Cent Counts