Debate on Telecoms bill deferred again

Government has once again delayed debate on the Telecommunications Bill 2012 and Prime Minister Sam Hinds said that the Administration is still locked in talks with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited (GT&T) over issues of liberalisation.

The Bill should have been read for a second time and debated since before the end of 2012 but was deferred because of ongoing talks with the telephone companies at the time.

The Bill provides for an open, liberalised and competitive telecommunications sector that will be attractive to new market entrants and investors while preserving the activities of current sector participants.

Stabroek News learnt from a Member of Parliament that once the Bill is passed and assented to by the President, it effectively means that the sector is liberalised and that the monopoly of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph is broken.

The passage of the legislation is expected to result in greater choice, better quality service and lower prices for consumers. The legislation looks at the expansion of telecommunications services in unserved areas.

According to the Bill, the new legislation will create a clear and harmonised framework and a level playing field for the sector, presently lacking in the current laws.

It is said to be characterised by transparency and non discrimination in the issuance and monitoring of licences and authorisations to use the spectrum, better interconnection and access between networks and services, and price regulation where required to ensure competition and consumer protection. The Bill seeks to establish a new telecommunications agency into which the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) will be incorporated and which will function under the supervision of the Minister, who the Bill deems the technical regulator of the sector and who will be responsible for licencing the spectrum and other technical matters.

Under the Bill, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will continue to function as the economic regulator of the sector, with the responsibility of ensuring a competitive environment, integrated networks and services, consumer rights and fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory prices. According to the bill, the minister will ultimately “grant or deny applications for, and amend, renew, suspend and terminate, licences, exemptions and frequency authorisations.

The Telecommunications Agency shall, among other things, advise the Minister and implement his directions on plans, positions and policies relating to the telecommunications and spectrum issues at national, bilateral, regional and international level.

It is also to receive and review applications for licences, exemptions and frequency authorisations and provide its recommendations thereon to the Minister.

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