“The goal of the hearing is to share with stakeholders the two proposed regulations and to provide a platform on which licensees and stakeholders are affected by the envisaged regulations could voice their opinions and formally submit their comments”, said Melvin Angula, Head of Universal Access and Services (UAS) at CRAN.
The draft regulations seek to impose a universal service levy on telecommunications service licensees; and to prescribe the provision of universal service by such licensees.
In his opening remarks at the hearing, CRAN acting CEO, Jochen Traut said CRAN is mandated by Part 4 of the Communications Act to establish the Universal Service Fund and to prescribe the minimum sets of services that should be made available by telecommunication licensees in the target areas. “The ground work commenced in December 2013 when CRAN collected network information of each telecommunication licensee. A further step was taken in October 2014 with the appointment of Mr. Melvin Angula as the Head of the UAS Department. He was tasked to operationalise Part 4 of the act. CRAN has therefore, been aggressively conducting benchmarking exercises, capacity building training, and drafting the two regulations,” Traut added.
The Communications Act gives CRAN the authority to impose a universal service levy on telecommunications service licensees. This levy will be paid into the Universal Service Fund. The monies in the fund will be utilised for paying subsidies to telecommunications licensees to enable them to provide services or infrastructure for the provision of universal service and access to ICT products and services.
Traut explained that the context in which the fund will be managed is set out in the government’s Universal Service Policy for ICTs, which seeks to foster the existence of a society and economy where information and knowledge are abundantly available to individuals, communities and businesses, in homes and offices, or via public access points, at schools and institutions of further education, at libraries, post offices, hospitals, clinics and government offices, for small entrepreneurs, for women, children and men, for those with disabilities and other marginalised groups, in towns, urban townships and rural settlements.
The acting CEO said CRAN is mandated with translating this vision into reality and in the process seek to tackle the ‘digital divide’ and to promote a society in which the information and communications technology sector is a key enabler of social development and economic growth for individuals, households and businesses, regardless of economic status or geographic location, in a service sector-led economy.