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SA ICT expert cautions on #SONA2016 broadband promise

SA ICT expert cautions on SONA2016 broadband promise.

The commitment to intensify the roll-out of broadband made by South African President Jacob Zuma during this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA)on 11 February is not a national broadband roll-out according to ICT industry expert Arthur Goldstuck.

Zuma announced in the country's parliament last night that five thousand government facilities in eight district municipalities around South Africa would be funded to the tune of over R740-million over a three-year period as part of a phased roll-out of broadband in the country.

Goldstuck has cautioned interpretation of the President's announcement as that of a roll-out of high-speed internet transmission. "This is not a new effort in broadband roll-out. This relates only to connecting government facilities. It is dangerous to regard it as part of broadband roll-out, as that would suggest that something is happening when nothing is happening in terms of broadband access for the people of South Africa."

Goldstuck does, however, deem the time-frame of three years and the amount of money allocated to be sufficient for the purpose mentioned in the President's address.

He adds that while South Africa compares well on the African continent in terms of broadband roll-out, it fares poorly when measured against industrialised countries worldwide. "Most of the broadband connectivity the public can access is thanks to private enterprise, and has little connection to government initiatives," said Goldstuck.

He added that Zuma's announcement is simply a continuation of the process of connecting government facilities that was announced in SONA 2015.

Goldstuck also believes any meaningful effort by the South African government to roll-out broadband in the country would need to overcome several hurdles from within the government itself.

"The primary hindrance has been from Government itself: firstly, as a result of regulatory intransigence in licensing what they call high-demand spectrum, which is ideal for wireless broadband; secondly as a result of splitting the Department of Communications in two in order to further political objectives that have little to do with national needs; and thirdly, inactivity by the resultant split Departments."

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