On 24 October, 2016, Link Africa launched an urgent high court interdict application in the Durban High Court. The reason? A landlord was denying our team the right to provide fibre optic internet to our clients on the property.
One of the intrinsic tenets upon which the fibre industry is built is the right to “open access”: the idea that the internet is not owned by any one firm, landlord or municipal body, and can be provided to tenants by any specialist service provider. This makes pricing, availability and service competitive and healthy across the board.
For years, many landlords have struck exclusive deals with Internet Service Providers to gate off access to outside firms. These exclusivity deals fly in the face of open access and are patently illegal.
After filing our application with the Durban High Court, the landlord in question changed his tune and ceded ground. As a result, the matter proceeded on an unopposed motion.
The judge carefully examined our founding papers and ruled in our favour.
The ruling is a landmark for the licensee (in this case, our team) and re-affirms the notion that no landlord can deny or prevent a licensee from gaining access to premises and installing fibre. The verdict is clear: it is not the landlord’s prerogative to deny you access to install fibre.
This is a heartening turn of events, but more can still be done, as many property bodies continue to turn a blind eye to the law and grant exclusive deals with single parties.
Going forward, we will not hesitate to show this court order to any landlord who operates in an anti-competitive manner, and we hope other internet providers will adopt a similarly firm stance.
It is not only landlords at fault. Not long ago, Link Africa won the right to install fibre in Tshwane’s stormwater drains and underground infrastructure, despite opposition from the local municipality.
The constitutional court ruled that it would be to the city’s benefit, and that access to internet is fast becoming an intrinsic human right.
Open access is the surest way to make this human right a reality – and long may it continue.