The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has published new regulations for South Africa’s communications sector which aim to make information around the coronavirus more easily accessible.
In a gazette published on Monday (6 April), Icasa said that the regulations will allow for the implementation of measures that may be necessary to prevent an escalation of the current state of national disaster.
Some of the biggest announcements in the regulations include:
Electronic Communications Services (such as mobile networks) must send to their subscribers by SMS at least two public announcements per day regarding the prevention and management of Covid-19. They must also notifications of all announcements by the minister of Health or the Presidency;
Television broadcasting service licensees must ensure that they use sign language interpretation in at least 50% of news broadcasts between 07h00 and 10h00 and 18h00 and 21h00 on a weekly basis;
If requested by government, the Post Office will have to make its national address system available for coronavirus tracking purposes;
Icasa will now maintain a register of all new electronic communications facilities deployed during the period of the national state of disaster;
Electronic Communications Services must zero-rate all Covid-19 websites as identified from to time by the Department of Health.
Those found in breach of the new regulations face fines of up to R100,000 a day. The regulations take effect immediately and will last until the state of national disaster has been terminated.
Icasa also confirmed that it will release emergency spectrum to allow the country’s mobile operators to meet the spike in broadband services demand due to South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown.
“It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently underway for permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction, the process which the Authority had committed to finalise by the end of 2020; as well as the assignment of spectrum to be set aside for the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) due for completion next year,” said Icasa acting chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
“We intend to take the necessary care in this regard and to ensure that there are no irreversible anti-competitive effects for the market,” he said.
“In addition, we really urge licensees to work with us for the benefit of all South Africans in a collaborative effort so that the emergency release of the spectrum can make a meaningful contribution to curb the spread and flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.”