ANC’s free Wi-Fi ‘an elec­tion ploy’

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

The City of Tsh­wane Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity started the ball rolling and the City of Jo­han­nes­burg Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity fol­lowed suit. Now, the ANC-gov­erned Nel­son Man­dela Bay Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is of­fer­ing free Wi-Fi to its res­i­dents.

While the de­vel­op­ment has been wel­comed by res­i­dents, par­tic­u­larly pupils and ter­tiary stu­dents, the op­po­si­tion DA is not im­pressed. The party has de­scribed the move as an elec­tion­eer­ing ploy and says it is an idea that the city stole from its own may­oral cam­paign.

The metro’s ex­ec­u­tive mayor, Danny Jor­daan, is pulling out all the stops to lure vot­ers to the ANC ahead of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions in Au­gust, and un­veiled the Wi-Fi project at Walmer High School this week.

Ac­cord­ing to the city, a pi­lot Wi-Fi ser­vice has been made avail­able at mu­nic­i­pal li­braries and a num­ber of cus­tomer care cen­tres since April. The project of­fered 100 megabytes of free in­ter­net a day at 17 mu­nic­i­pal fa­cil­i­ties in li­braries, town­ships and at cus­tomer care cen­tres.

Kupido Baron, the Nel­son Man­dela Bay may­oral spokesper­son, said the Wi-Fi project also pro­vided a voice call ser­vice that would cost a frac­tion of the price charged by other ser­vice providers, which could spark data price wars with net­work providers – if they don’t file a com­plaint with the au­thor­i­ties about the com­pe­ti­tion from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, that is.

Res­i­dents will have ac­cess to 1 000MB of data a month and, through the city’s part­ner­ship with Spec­trum Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Spe­cial­ists, they will be of­fered sub­stan­tially lower data and in­ter­net voice-call­ing rates once their free data is de­pleted. The voice calls are ex­pected to cost as lit­tle as 20c a minute.

The broad­band ser­vice in­cludes e-Con­nect – an in­door ser­vice that is de­signed specif­i­cally for pupils and stu­dents to link up with the city’s schools and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, where each per­son gets 100MB for free per de­vice per day.

The B Con­nected net­work app will de­liver af­ford­able and wire­less voice and in­ter­net ser­vices to res­i­dents and busi­nesses for less.

The ser­vice is cur­rently avail­able in parts of Walmer, KwaMagx­aki, KwaNobuhle and Kruis­riv­ier.

Baron said res­i­dents would re­ceive free Wi-Fi and voice calls if they qual­i­fied for free ba­sic wa­ter and elec­tric­ity ser­vices, and if they had a paid-up mu­nic­i­pal ac­count or their ac­count ar­range­ments were up to date. He did not ex­plain how the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would cross-check and ver­ify this.

Jor­daan said the coun­cil wanted to make the metro a smart city by us­ing some of the 2010 World Cup in­fra­struc­ture Nel­son Man­dela Bay re­ceived.

“We are cre­at­ing a new par­a­digm, con­vert­ing in­fra­struc­ture that we have and gen­er­at­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for the res­i­dents,” he said.

Athol Trol­lip, the DA’s may­oral can­di­date, said that although it was a good thing for gov­ern­ment to of­fer such ser­vices in the fast-chang­ing world of tech­nol­ogy, it was in­ter­est­ing that ideas ex­pressed dur­ing the DA’s may­oral cam­paign were now be­ing rolled out by the ANC.

“It just shows that the DA can get things done, even as the op­po­si­tion, let alone in gov­ern­ment. We live in a tech­no­log­i­cal age, so it’s the right thing to do. I am in­spired by the fact that we are get­ting the ANC to do some­thing. But we are look­ing for­ward to do­ing it prop­erly our­selves in two months’ time,” Trol­lip said.

Athol Trol­lip

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