Today R2K activists are appearing before the Competition Commission's public hearings on data costs. (Watch a livestream of the public hearings here.)
R2K's submission to the Competition Commission highlights how the outrageous cost of communication in South Africa is undermining people's basic rights to access and share information - their right to communicate! As always, it is the poorest of the poor who are hurt the most.
R2K maintains that the high cost of communication in South Africa is directly linked to systemic failures of policy and implementation by government, and lack of regulation and competition in the telecommunications industry.
Among R2K's recommendations for regulatory reform:
The Commission should intervene to separate wholesale and retail divisions of the mobile operators, as the Commission did in respect to Telkom in 2013.
Regulatory bodies need to ensure that data costs are decreased to match the socio-economic needs of South Africans.
Ensuring that prepaid communication users do not cross subsidise post-paid users.
Ensuring that data bundles do not expire if they are unused.
Further recommendations for all regulatory bodies and policy makers include:
Making SMS a free service, as SMSes cost the operators almost nothing to transmit.
Recognition of airtime and data as a basic service, like water and electricity. All users should get a basic provision of free airtime and data, similar to any other basic service.
Ensuring network operators improve the quality of service, including network outages, dropped calls, calls that don't connect, and data coverage.
Ensuring that the range of numbers that are free to call (such as emergency services) should include schools and hospitals.