By Sihle Mavuso for IOL
In the wake of the Competition Commission ordering Vodacom and MTN to lower their exorbitant data prices, the ruling party says the two must voluntarily do so now than later.
MTN and Vodacom lost R22-billion of their combined value on Monday after the competition watchdog gave the two dominant mobile phone operators two months to slash internet connectivity prices or face prosecution.
The ANC, in response to the two mobile giants’ reasoning that data was so expensive because of the lack of spectrum, said that would be sorted in the near future and that should not be an excuse.
Joining the chorus of those welcoming the news that on the side battered the values of the companies, the ruling party said the current steep prices of data have a negative impact not only on the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
“We reiterate our call that operators must demonstrate goodwill by voluntarily lowering data prices and allow government to resolve the allocation of new spectrum. The release of spectrum, which the ANC supports, will resolve the network capacity constraints experienced by Mobile Network Operators and accelerate the roll-out of broadband networks in rural areas,” the party said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
On the high data costs, the party said the working class poor, youth, students and women are robbed of their income as they spend more than 25% on the telecommunications services including data services.
It said the majority of the country’s people, due to the widening digital divide, are unable to enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, which deprive the poor of full participation in the democracy of our country. It added that this further stifles development and growth of small businesses.
“The ANC further urges government to activate all regulatory mechanisms, i.e. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Competition Commission, with the necessary speed. Access to data in the 21st century is important because it facilitates the realisation of many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, as well as, enhancing economic participation and the strengthening of our democracy.”
Among its findings, the Competition Commission said while conducting its inquiry it started in 2017, it found that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN in other African markets in which they operate also reveal that South African prices are higher than most countries by some distance.