R1.5bn for cheaper internet access

Johannesburg – The Gauteng government has forked out R1.5-billion on a tender to provide cheaper internet access to the province’s residents.

On Monday, the Gauteng Department of Finance announced that Altech Alcom Matomo, a subsidiary of Altron TMT, has been awarded the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN) five-year tender.

The intention is that after the company has established the network, its ownership will be transferred to the provincial government.

According to the tender, the service provider is supposed to build, operate and maintain a province wide broadband network that will offer broadband fibre internet access to the province’s 316 government-owned buildings, 45 Thusong centres, nine economic development zones (malls, business hubs and such) and 20 priority townships.

The department said the public would be able to access free internet from these points.

The network will consist of 1 600km of high-speed fibre optics and provide coverage to 95 percent of Gauteng’s population.

In two years’ time, the GBN will also be responsible for providing uncapped internet connectivity in all of the province’s public schools.

The e-Learning programme – co-managed by the provincial departments of finance and education – is currently being supported by two private service providers on a two-year contract. When this contract expires in 2016, the programme will be absorbed into the province’s network.

This is not the first time that the provincial government has coughed up millions to roll out internet access.

In June last year, late Gauteng MEC for economic development Nkosiphendule Kolisile filed a R9-million lawsuit against his former head of department, Khulu Radebe, and head of IT Linda Canca.

Kolisile filed his application on June 24 and died on July 20 after a crash which also claimed the lives of two of his bodyguards. He was on his way to a funeral in the Eastern Cape when the tragedy struck, but the matter remains on the court roll.

In his application, Kolisile filed papers stating that Radebe and Canca were given a responsibility to start a broadband programme that would provide internet connectivity, among other services.

He said Radebe, acting on the advice and in cahoots with Canca, entered into an agreement with ECI Telecom Africa in February 2012 to implement the programme, called the Alexandra WiMax Pilot Project.

“ECI Telecom Africa would implement and test WiMax Networking Infrastructure that is capable of transmitting data, voice and video. The network infrastructure would include a self-contained network operations centre with full management capabilities,” Kolisile argued.

However, in his papers, he said Radebe and Canca should have exercised reasonable care to have known that the project had no prospects of success, and that any cost incurred in the ECI Telecom agreement would have no value unless the Department of Economic Development had procured a radio frequency licence 2.6 GHZ from the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

Kolisile said that without that licence, his department suffered losses of R9 908 710.14. He wanted Radebe and Canca to reimburse the department.

Mxolisi Xayiya is the new economic development MEC.

Radebe and Canca have filed papers to defend the lawsuit against them. – The Star

Article originally appeared at www.iol.co.za



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