By the time this letter is published, GT&T’s telephone licence, which was granted on December 19, 1990 for a period of twenty years, will have expired. Unless the licence has been renewed, GT&T’s operations after that date will be illegal. The licence is renewable at GT&T’s option and, no doubt, GT&T, which has always shown great diligence where its interests are concerned, may have notified the government of its decision to exercise this option. According to the licence, renewal is mandatory (“shall be renewable”) if the option is exercised, but I have not seen any indication that it has been renewed. I cannot rule this out, however, since the Telecommunications Act does not require that the minister “shall give notice” of his or her intention to grant a licence to GT&T, as is required for all other telecommunication licences. (This exemption has some justification in the circumstances of the original licence, but it makes no sense and will be prejudicial to the public interest in the case of any subsequent licence.)
Renewal of GT&T’s licence involves a re-issue of the licence. There is no other sensible way.
A simple response from the government that the request for renewal has been granted, or a public declaration or proclamation by the responsible minister to that effect, will create an absurd situation or, to be more accurate, an even more absurd situation than existed since 1991. It should not be surprising if the licence has not been renewed, since such action will be inconsistent with the declared intention of government to liberalise the telecommunications sector, with or after the enactment of the new Telecommunications Act.
It will be shocking to think that GT&T is currently an illegal operator. But this will be most certainly the case, if its licence has not been effectively renewed.
GT&T should not protest too much about government granting licences to “illegal” operators under the new Telecommunications Act. In fact, as I have been pointing out from the distant past, many of GT&T’s operations have been illegal from day one and the problem has grown steadily since. A glaring example is the operation of GT&T’s cellular mobile network which is expressly prohibited by its landline licence. I am not aware that a special licence has been granted to GT&T for its mobile operations.
May I conclude by saying that the public has a right to know from the government whether GT&T’s 1990 licence has indeed expired and, if so, what action it has taken to address the situation. I am sure that the public, including GT&T’s competitors and would-be competitors, will be anxiously awaiting an early announcement.
Joseph A Tyndall