Discussions are continuing between GT&T and the Internet Interest Holders Group (IIHG) in an attempt to find a solution to the current impasse between the two over the blocking of certain Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) websites by the telephone company. About a month ago, GT&T had blocked access to such sites, which prevented customers from making phone calls over the internet. Consequently several internet café owners were affected as they experienced a marked decline in their business. Subsequently GT&T removed the block on some VOIP sites, which allowed some internet cafés to resume business.

However, according to GT&T’s Director of Marketing and Sales Wystan Robertson the unblocking of certain sites had been done primarily to benefit the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). He said that this would permit customers who owned devices such as the yap jack to make overseas calls using these instruments. Since then no further sites had been unblocked by the company, Robertson stated.

Robertson said that his company had recently met with the IIHG body, where they listened to suggested amendments to a proposal that GT&T had made to internet cafés.   The initial offer by GT&T required the internet café owners to pay US$60 for a “box,” a $10,000 monthly rental fee for DSL and to buy minutes from GT&T.  He said that the cost of the minutes was one of the major concerns raised by the group. He said that GT&T was examining the entire financial aspect of the deal and would be meeting again with the IIHG members shortly.

Robertson explained that the main issue behind the blocking of the sites was the loss of revenue that the company and subsequently the government were experiencing because of the operations of the internet café owners.  He said that under the proposal, the company and ultimately the country would be able to garner revenue that would have otherwise been lost.  According to him, the country lost a substantial amount of money every year on account of the operations of the internet café owners.  He said the new proposal would still provide the café owners with the opportunity of continuing their businesses while allowing for the proper garnering of revenue that would benefit the country. Meanwhile, the GT&T official told this newspaper that the utility company was also working on another proposal which they planned to approach the ISPs with and which would filter down to the customers. Under this proposal, GT&T would be providing an alternative to home users of such appliances as the yap jack.  This initiative is another attempt to acquire the revenue which the company says is being lost.

The IIHG, a group of internet café owners and managers, had protested against GT&T’s recent decision to block access to VOIP and VPN sites, which allow users to make international calls through the internet. The group is also protesting against the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) announcement that it would pursue and prosecute businesses that offered international telephone calls over the internet since it was “illegal.”

At a meeting held by the IIHG last month, attorney-at-law Stephen Fraser said GT&T had no legal right over the internet service in Guyana, since it had never been granted such right by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). He advised the body to proceed with caution, however, since it found itself in a troublesome spot being threatened by GT&T, GRA and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) all at the same time.

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