Q&A with Nomvuyiso Batyi
1. ICASA must oversee both content and carriage issues. As convergence blurs the distinctions between content, carriage and delivery, how do you see the system working going forward?
In South Africa we have a particular challenge: while the regulator oversees both content issues and carriage and delivery, these are treated separately in terms of legislation in that content finds itself only in the Broadcasting Chapter of the legislation. This is problematic from a governmental point of view and also in terms of the communications ecosystem. Convergence is happening. So ICASA has commissioned a market analysis to see what 'convergence' means for the industry, especially the telecommunications industry, moving forward. How should policy adapt in this changing environment, and how far can we regulate in so far as content services?
2. The Authority must adjudicate over matters such as spectrum, demanded by both telecommunications and the broadcasting sectors, how does the Authority balance the demands?
For us the first port of call are the Region 1 rules, regardless of the demands of the telecommunications or broadcasting industry. As a regulator we cannot be inconsistent and we have to show respect for the treaties South Africa has signed, so we follow Region 1 rules to the letter. This is nothing to do with preferring one sector over another but it does reflect where the demand for spectrum might lie. So the demand for data is increasing while, for example, the demand for sound broadcasting services is not. This is a balance we must, and do, make.
3. ICASA has recently produced a discussion document on a Draft Framework for Dynamic and Opportunistic Spectrum Management, by which it is assumed you are talking about the regulation of white spaces. Is this a correct interpretation?
Yes the driver was the research undertaken by CSIR who were doing trial test for Google on white spaces and the technical abilities in Limpopo and Cape Town. But ICASA has seen this as an opportunity to bring other related issues to the fore, an opportunity to create debate and discussion about the issues that we in South Africa might face going forward. And we hope it will help us move South Africa forward.
4. What have been the recent highlights and challenges for you and your team?
I think one of the biggest challenges we face is ‘hearsay’. The fact that people make assumptions without looking at the evidence, without reading the documents and the proof. We must all the time balance the views and opinions of policy makers and the needs of the end user, the South African citizen.
5. ICASA are supporting the forthcoming TMF next month - what are the ‘hot topics’ you hope will be discussed and in your view, how does the IIC approach these differently from other organisations?
ICASA has a long and positive relationship with the Institute. A colleague attending her first IIC meeting said that she could engage with the topics, rather than sitting through endless PowerPoint-driven presentations. In her view the IIC makes ‘people think differently’. I think that is important and my hope is that the forthcoming Forum in Johannesburg (supported by ICASA) will look at the issue of disruption in all its forms – OTT services are everywhere – but also at spectrum management. South Africa is one of the last countries to migrate to digital and I hope the IIC meeting will help us move forward despite the challenges we face, and show us ways in which we might do so.
- Thursday, 19 November 2015