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And here's to another 10 years of Internet activism!

Yesterday, 6 June 2006, marked the tenth anniversary of the formation of the Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (ISPA). From establishing the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) to influencing South Africa's telecommunications and Internet policies, ISPA has achieved a great deal for consumers and ISPs in the space of a decade, despite Telkom's monopoly.
The Internet Service Providers' Association is a South African Internet industry body incorporated not for gain. ISPA's members comprise large, medium and small Internet service and access providers in South Africa. ISPA has historically served as an active industry body, facilitating exchange between the different independent Internet service providers, the Department of Communications, ICASA, operators and other service providers in South Africa.

The ISPA founding meeting took place on 6 June 1996, attended by Dave Frankel of Internet Solutions, Jon Oliver of GIA (Global Internet Access), Mark Todes of Internet Africa, Steve Corkin of Sprint and Ant Brooks of Future Foundation. Currently 113 ISPs are members of ISPA.

First battle was for recognition

"ISPA's first battle was simply for recognition. A decade ago Telkom was trying to convince SATRA (SA Telecoms Regulatory Authority) that its monopoly over voice services extended to the Internet as well. In the first setback for the telecoms monopoly, SATRA ruled that Telkom's monopoly did not extend to the Internet Protocol, thus blocking Telkom's attempt to extent their monopoly to include Internet access," recounts Greg Massel, co-chair of ISPA.

JINX enables ISPA members to interconnect their networks and exchange traffic in order to save costs. In 1996, JINX's four links boasted speeds varying from 64 kilobytes a second to 256 kilobytes a second. Ten years later, link speeds exceed 100 megabytes a second.

Further achievements

Further key regulatory victories for ISPA include WiFi LANs (local area networks) being declared legal and the ability of ISPA to persuade Parliament and the Department of Communications to amend the Electronic Communications & Transactions Act, the Electronic Communications Act and the Films & Publications Amendment Act to make them fairer to ISPs.

Another ISPA achievement and milestone for 2006 will the fifth anniversary of iWeek. ISPA and UniForum SA's flagship annual gathering has evolved from a purely South African event into an international conference attracting the best and brightest from the world's Internet community This free event takes place this year 4 - 7 September at The Castle in Kyalami, Midrand, Johannesburg.

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