National Assembly New regulatory authority to be established under approved Communications Bill |23 March 2023
Seychelles will soon see the establishment of a new independent regulator, the Seychelles Communications Regulatory Authority (SCRA), whose role will be to regulate and govern the broadcasting and electronic communications sector.
Under the new law, the SCRA will take decisions to promote the development of the sectors in Seychelles, and will also bear responsibility for granting different categories of licenses, instead of the Seychelles Licensing Authority (SLA) as is the case today.
At present, the two sectors are governed by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act, which came into force in 2000.
Under the current legal framework, operators in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are not issued a separate license for the frequencies which they use in their infrastructure and in offering such services, contrary to international best practices. However, the new Bill allows the SCRA to issue operators with a license for frequencies assigned specifically to them. The terms and general conditions for these licenses are included in the Bill itself.
Vice-President Ahmed Afif, who holds the portfolio for Information, Communications and Technology (ICT), on Tuesday explained that the SCRA will be governed by a seven-member board, appointed by the President.
In addition to the SCRA, the Bill also provides for the setting up of a Communications Tribunal who will hear and determine the merit in appeals relating to decisions, directions and orders given by the SCRA.
The Tribunal has powers to decide on fines for offences brought before it by the minister, with the maximum fine at R4 million.
As such, the ministry’s role will be to put in place policies and regulations.
The new law will repeal and replace the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act (2000), and is in line with international best practices.
It incorporates important concepts, including consultation, competition, consumer protection, number portability, connections between operators in the sector, access to services, the distribution and use of infrastructure, the administration of numbers and electronic addresses, complaints management and dispute resolution, among others.
“Over the years, there have been much developments in both sectors, due to the globalisation of the market in both sectors, considerable advancement in technology, changes in consumer choices and behaviour, and the increase in the number of companies engaged in the two sectors in Seychelles,” Vice-President Afif said.
“Therefore, it is important to update the legal framework to ensure that it is abreast of developments that have occurred over the years, and which are likely to happen in the foreseeable future,” Vice-President Afif noted.
The new legal framework will allow government to accomplish objectives set for the sector, namely, facilitating the two sectors, promoting investments and innovation in facilities and electronic communications infrastructure, and encouraging, promoting and reinforcing sustainable competition in the ICT sector.
Consumers will also be able to access better value in terms of quantity and quality of service, and more competitive prices.
Among other provisions of the Bill are number portability which is to be prescribed in a separate set of regulations, and further provisions which permit individuals or businesses who wish to import radio equipment with the intention of renting out or selling these equipment to do so, under a Dealer license.
Moreover, the Bill covers all broadcasting activities including satellite services, such as DSTV which are not currently provided for the by current legal framework.
Despite being met with a lot of questions regarding confidentiality and privacy, the Bill was approved by 19 votes.
Seven United Seychelles (US) members voted against.