“We will do what has to be done to achieve good broadband Internet access in South Africa.” So says Rudolph Muller, founder of MyADSL, a South African website aimed at providing a forum for the discussion of broadband Internet access issues.
Muller and members of MyADSL feel so strongly about the issue of access that they have filed a formal complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on the subjects of the speed and pricing of asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) services in the country.
ADSL allows users to have always-on, high-speed Internet access through the existing copper phone lines. Because the service uses existing lines, it is cheaper than other high-speed Internet access methods, such as ISDN, and requires less infrastructure.
Telkom provides the infrastructure for ADSL services, although you can subscribe via Telkom to another service provider. ADSL is priced at a fixed cost, rather than being dependent on how much you use it, which is the case with dial-up and ISDN services.
The complaint, which Muller says he resorted to after a long process of correspondence and meetings with Telkom to discuss the issues, addresses a number of points, foremost of which is the cost of the service. He says Telkom’s response to MyADSL’s initial complaint was “inadequate”.
ADSL access costs at least R1 000 a month, depending on the service provided, and the modem and installation costs add another R2 000. In the United Kingdom, for example, the monthly cost is R321, and there are no connection fees.
MyADSL argues that Telkom is overcharging for the modem, and that the line rental cost is exorbitant, especially since it is partly based on the cost of international bandwidth and was initially set at a time when the exchange rate was R10 to the dollar.
In response to a query from the Mail & Guardian, Telkom said the majority of its customers were happy with the ADSL services provided.
Icasa declined to comment. However, Diana Ngoasheng, Icasa’s senior manager in the consumer department, said a sub-committee had been created to investigate the issue, and that public hearings are being set up.
Muller says good quality and affordable Internet access is essential for economic development in this country. He adds that it is not only the IT industry that suffers because “exorbitant Internet costs are a handicap for many small and medium businesses”.
Telkom ADSL information page: www.telkom.co.za/adsl/