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CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance (DA) in a statement on Wednesday said they are sceptical about the revised South African Connect rollout plan by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS).

This plan aims to connect 90% of the population to the internet by 2020 through State IT Infrastructure Company's project management which is yet-to-be created.

According to a statement by DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Marian Shinn MP, the new strategy was for SA Connect was presented to parliament's Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services on Tuesday.

Shinn said: "It is clear that the focus of the department has shifted from meeting the urgent delivery deadlines of SA Connect in under-developed areas to building yet another state owned company from the existing fibre networks and infrastructure operated by state entities Broadband Infraco, Sentech, PRASA, Eskom, Sanral and Transnet."

She added that if government was serious about speedily rolling out broadband connectivity to a large body of people they would:

1. Sell Sentech and Broadband Infraco’s network. 

2. Fast-track the rapid deployment guidelines to reduce red tape between all sphered of government that currently hinders infrastructure build.

3. Pressure and resource adequately the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to drive infrastructure sharing regulations between network licence holders.

4. Incentivise the ICT sector to connect under-resourced areas.

She stated that the formation of the new company will start with drafting legislation as a means to merge Broadband Infraco and Sentech in to the State Infrastructure Company.

"Both these entities will be expected to fund their merger and future operations from their balance sheets but neither currently receives government funding," Shinn said.

According to Shinn, BMI-TechKnowledge, who has extensively researched and costed SA Connect's requirements, estimated that the capital funding that will be needed for this merger is well between R32,9 billion and R84,9 billion, depending on the technology used.

Also depending on technology used, the calculated operational costs were between R54,8 million and R116,4 million.

"The ANC government will not yield tangible results and exacerbate the digital divide between poorer rural communities and the internet-empowered urban areas.," Shinn concluded.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE