The Committee met with Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services to be briefed on the rapid deployment of communications infrastructure.
Highlights of the brief from the Department included the process followed on the rapid Information Communication Technology deployment policy; the aim of the policy; a definition of rapid deployment of electronic networks based on the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper; electronic communications faculty and the term Wayleave; the challenges faced by licensees, stakeholders and Municipalities; the current legislative framework for rapid deployment of electronic infrastructure and its limitations, the policy directions and the required Electronic Communications Act amendments. Also outlined were the mandate of the Inter-Departmental working, the progress of the work streams after several meetings, the key issues addressed by the work streams and the way forward. The Department also highlighted the proposed institutional framework, the roles of the key players in implementing the rapid deployment policy, the present collaborations between the key stakeholders SA Local Government Association and the Fibre to the X Council of Africa, the roadmap and timelines for implementing the rapid deployment policy.
The Committee asked questions on costs and timeline, how the Independent Communications Authority SA would fund its portion of the project, structure of the Rapid Deployment National Coordinating Centre, legislation on road reinstatements, average approval period for wayleaves, strategies to avoid duplication of infrastructure, the reasonable fees for the use of owner’s properties and the risks identified concerning the project.
The Committee asked the Department to address Members’ concerns that there would be disruptions due to lack of planning, state what would happen if the Municipalities targeted were not part of SA Local Government Association, state if the project was linked to Presidential infrastructure development projects, and strategies it would use to build capacity in the smaller Municipalities.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister, Mr Siyabonga Cwele, and invited the Minister for his brief.
Minister’s Opening Remarks
Minister Cwele stated that the purpose of the brief was to present a progress report on implementation of the rapid deployment policy as contained in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper. He gave an overview of the brief and invited the DG, Mr Robert Nkuna, to brief the Committee
Briefing by Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS)
Mr Robert Nkuna, DG, DTPS, stated that the rapid deployment of communications infrastructure was not a major milestone of the Annual Performance Plan but was vital for the operation of ICT. He invited the DDG for the brief.
Mr Tinyiko Ngobeni, DDG: ICT Infrastructure Support, DTPS, stated that the process to develop the rapid deployment policy in terms of the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) was initiated in 2015. Although a standalone policy initially, it was later decided that the policy would be included in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper. The aim of the policy is to harmonise, simplify and minimise the period taken to apply for wayleaves and to issue permits. He indicated the definition of the rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure based on the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper as the process of gaining access to and using property for the deployment of electronic communications networks with emphasis of reducing time between applying and actual time of deploying the infrastructure. Section 21 of the ECA empowers the policy pronouncement made in the South Africa (SA) Connect, removes bottle necks and assists in the roll-out of wired and wireless broadband. He highlighted what constituted electronic communications facility and defined the term ‘wayleave’.
The challenges faced by licensees were the lengthy and non-standard process which did not guarantee timelines to complete the process and the duplication of infrastructure, which had a negative impact on the environment. The challenges faced by stakeholders were unclear institutional framework and not streamlining the fees and existing procedures which affected pricing and laws. The challenges faced by Municipalities were court cases instituted by telecommunications companies, incorrect standards followed to reinstate roads, disregarding instructions to rectify incorrect reinstatements, not informing Municipalities when reinstatements are completed, uncoordinated works on road by entities and capacity constraints in Municipal Wayleave sections to process applications.
Mr Ngobeni analysed the current legislative framework for rapid deployment of electronic infrastructure and its limitations, the policy directions and the required ECA amendments. He indicated that in giving effect to the rapid deployment policy, Chapter four had been substituted by amending the relevant provisions in accordance with the White Paper. He outlined the mandate of the Inter-Departmental working group on the rapid deployment policy established on 31 July 2017. The work streams were institutional framework handled by DTPS, infrastructure duplication and regulations handled by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) and the process and procedure work stream handled by SALGA. He indicated the progress of the work streams after several meetings, the key issues addressed by the work streams and the way forward. He highlighted the proposed institutional framework, the roles of the key players in implementing the rapid deployment policy, the present collaborations between the key stakeholders SALGA and the Fibre to the X (FTTX) Council of Africa, the roadmap and timelines for implementing the rapid deployment policy.
Mr Nkuna indicated that the game plan of DTPS was to enable the private sector to assist in the roll-out of the ICT infrastructure for Municipalities and assist with the creation of Smart Cities.
Ms M Shinn (DA) asked the DTPS to state the costs and timeline for developing an integrated application system and the acquisition of geographical information system equipment. She observed that ICASA had a lot of work to do on the project hence she asked how ICASA would fund the project because ICASA was not funded by DTPS. She asked for the impact of SALGA on public sector work with respect to the timeline of March, 2018 as outlined in the roadmap. She asked for clarity on the structure of the Rapid Deployment National Coordinating Centre (RDNCC) which was billed to be established in March, 2018 and expressed concerns on its continuity. She asked the Department to state how it would cope with the legislative framework of the Rapid Deployment Coordination Centre (RDCC) which would be ready in two years when RDCC was supposed to be established in March, 2018. She asked for clarity on why ICASA should determine if a business owner was adequately served and asked the Department to state how it would manage the security of the facilities. She also asked DTPS to state if there was a legislation on road reinstatements and if the legislation insisted that staff of companies that reinstated the road were trained on occupational health and safety.
Mr C Mackenzie (DA) observed from the brief that the Rapid Deployment National Coordination Centre should be a regulator hence, he asked for the calibre of officials that would be in the regulatory body and further asked for clarification on if only Government officials would be appointed in the body. He asked if the rapid deployments on electronic communication facilities had received proper costing and was in line with the Constitution. He asked if he Department had consulted with SALGA on the status of Municipalities that were not part of SALGA. He asked DTPS to state when it would decide that applications to lay trenches in one place were enough to ensure that duplication of infrastructure was avoided.
Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) asked DTPS how it would convince the public that deploying electronic communication facilities was in its interest. She asked for clarity on timeframes for the roll-out and how DTPS would determine the reasonable fees for the use of owner’s properties. She asked how DTPS would determine information on pipes that needed to be replaced after digging trenches.
The Chairperson asked DTPS for clarity on how the project was linked to ducts laid on N4 roads. He asked for clarity on the funding mechanism for the project. He expressed concerns on why the project was not linked to the Presidential infrastructure development projects because ICT development was a priority for the African continent as well as the country because it was a key to economic development. He observed that the Minister in his brief stated that getting an approval for wayleaves and issuance of permits took time hence he asked for the average period it took to get such approval. He also asked for updates on the establishment of the Rapid Deployment National Coordinating Centre. He asked DTPS to state what would happen if the Municipalities targeted were not part of SALGA. He asked DTPS to address concerns by Members that there would be disruptions due to lack of planning. If the State was involved the project would be faster but if was coordinated by Municipalities the standards used would be different. He asked for clarity on roll-out timeframes. He observed that in considering the country for hosting FIFA 2010, South Africa had agreed to roll-out ICT infrastructure hence, he asked for an update on the FIFA 2010 ICT infrastructure roll-out. He asked the DG to state the risks that DTPS had identified on the project.
The DG stated that the rapid deployment of communications infrastructure project was part of the broad band milestone hence, it was budgeted for. He stated that the project was under the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission and linked to Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) 15. The ducts on N4 road referred to were part of SANRAL’s projects and DTPS was engaging with SANRAL to use its linkages. He accepted the advice to take into consideration Municipalities that were not under SALGA. The State is playing its role on SA Connect to deploy ICT infrastructure in South Africa but the State does not have enough funds and only spearheads it. DTPS would not appoint new officials into the Rapid Deployment National Coordinating Centre (RDNCC) but would welcome secondments. DTPS would engage with SALGA, the Department of Water and Sanitation and COGTA for secondments. The costs for the rapid deployment of electronic communication facilities can be accommodated within the current budget. The ICT infrastructure roll-out is needed for some Municipalities because without the interventions some Municipalities might not be able to acquire such ICT infrastructure. ICASA is already aware of the programme and is already incorporating the programme into its annual performance plan. DTPS has involved ICASA because it’s the regulator, DTPS is presently engaging on the roll-out with ICASA. He suggested that the Committee could engage ICASA on the deployment’s as well.
The National ICT forum engagements on the deployment of ICT infrastructure was on-going and DTPS was also engaging with the private sector. Legislations on the deployments are not once-off but DTPS is focused on implementing the issues that did not involve legislation while legislation was being handled. The DTPS needs to benchmark to plan effectively to identify and indicate adequately served Municipalities. Being in line with the Constitution was not negotiable and the DTPS was presently engaging with stakeholders for assistance. DTPS would make efforts to share the benefits of laying the necessary infrastructure to roll-out Smart cities to the public. The National e-Strategy has been approved by Cabinet hence each of the Departments and entities are been encouraged to think ICT when implementing its programmes. Hence, DTPS would engage with the many Departments and entities it would be coordinating to arrive at a consensus. Also, DTPS would engage with the private sector to mitigate risks. The fees charged would only incorporate the cost of reinstatement of road infrastructure.
Mr Ngobeni indicated that DTPS was working with CSIR on acquisition of GIS equipment. The bulk of engagements on policy would be with ICASA. The legislations would make it important for Municipalities to give information on road infrastructure before laying ICT infrastructure. The National Infrastructure Development Act was supposed to deal with the roll-out of ICT infrastructure during FIFA 2010 but it was not achieved. DTPS believes that it needs to roll-out ICT infrastructure using the portal of rapid deployment of electronic communication infrastructure.
Mr Lineder Petzer Chief Director, DTPS, stated that initially the project was supposed to stand on its own but it has now been incorporated into SIP 15. Formal engagements are on-going with Government establishments however only informal engagements have been done with the private sector. The roadmap is an on-going process that would take time. The idea of incorporating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is to have more information on the present state of the roads, electricity and water cables and current ICT infrastructure. This information is not electronic but is with the Municipalities. ICASA has the power to get the current information on ICT while engagements are on-going with other Departments such as water and Sanitation, Transport, COGTA to get other necessary information. He indicated the average cost of the project. DTPS would avoid duplication of ICT infrastructure by approaching all ICT companies at the same time. Timelines would be between three months and three years.
The Chairperson asked DTPS to state if there were any risks identified concerning the project
Ms Shinn asked DTPS if it had considered having a National RDCC and a Provincial RDCC to avoid bottle-necks. She congratulated DTPS for building capacity for smaller Municipalities and asked for strategies it would use to build capacity in the smaller Municipalities.
Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) remarked that some of the pipes on roads might not need to be repaired but might need to be replaced but noted that DTPS might not be the right Department to address the issue. Hence, she proposed another meeting with the relevant stakeholders.
The DG stated that DTPS accepted that a joint meeting be convened with relevant stakeholders in Parliament to address issues connected with road reinstatements as stated by Ms Tsotetsi. DTPS has engaged with SALGA and Municipalities. He gave reasons why a Provincial RDCC would not work and stated that a National RDCC that would network with the Province was better. He agreed that DTPS did not have power over other Departments but presently negotiated with other Departments to ensure that it fits its programmes within the deployment of ICT infrastructure. However, when deployments of ICT infrastructure did not fit into a Department’s programme, DTPS looks at the laws of the Department in conjunction with the Department to see what can portion of the ICT infrastructure roll-out could be accommodated. He agreed that legal risks could occur because DTPS did not have power over other Departments, not all Municipalities were under SALGA but DTPS mitigated the risks by allowing approvals through SIP 15. DTPS decided to go to PICC because deployment if ICT infrastructure was a national issue.
Ms Shinn asked if the policy would be going through public participation.
The DG indicated the portion of the rapid deployment policy would undergo public participation.
The Chairperson wished the DTPS good luck on its implementation and discharged the team.
The meeting was adjourned.
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