Internet access a ‘basic human right’ – CoW

In the midst of a looming fibre connectivity war in the capital, bribery allegations have surfaced at the Windhoek municipality.

15 July 2020 | Local News

Windhoek • [email protected]
According to arguments heard this morning, internet access is a basic human right.
This was stated during a public hearing by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia
(CRAN) to reconsider the awarding of a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications Service Licence to
the City of Windhoek, as submitted by Paratus.
Furthermore, Paratus called on CRAN to not only set the license aside but deny the CoW’s
application for it.
Representing the CoW, adv. Thabang Phatela said that internet access is not a luxury any longer,
“but a basic human right”. He opined that council has the power to “promote tourism in our
jurisdiction subject to provisions of this act or any other law, which in our eyes includes the
communications act”.
Act amendment
Speaking for Paratus, lawyer Charles Visser said that the Local Authorities Act does not make
provision to run a fibre optic network; for it to be able to do so, the act needs to be amended. “Just
because the City uses a fibre optic network, does not mean they can commercialize it. The act
specifically sets out that the City is responsible for a number of other areas, including water
regulations, roads and waste management,” he said.
Paratus lodged a petition against CRAN for awarding a Class Comprehensive Telecommunications
Service Licence to the CoW on 22 May 2020. This came after CRAN approved a telecommunication
license the City’s applied for in February 2019.
Sector shocked
Windhoek Express reported earlier that this license will give the City access to construct, maintain,
own and make available one or more network element, infrastructure and other facilities that allow
for the provision of telecommunication, broadcasting, electronic communications or application
services.
However, the awarding of this licence left the telecommunications sector reeling because the CoW
had in actual fact applied for a Network Facilities license, not a Class Comprehensive
Telecommunications Service Licence.
According to Ronel le Grange, Head of Communications at CRAN, while closing the hearing said that
comments on the issue would be accepted until 17 July, adding that the CRAN board of directors will
make a decision by 28 July. “All oral submissions made today and written submissions made until
Friday, will be considered,” she said.
Huawei deal
This hearing came amidst allegations that certain CoW council members had bribed another
member for millions of Namibia dollars to stop objecting to a deal between the City and Chinese
communications giant Huawei, to roll out 5G technology in Windhoek.
According to an anonymous source, the Anti-Corruption Commission is looking into these
allegations. However, no questions submitted to CRAN or Paratus regarding the issue had
been answered by 17:00.

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