Digicel confident new Parliament will see anti-monopoly telecoms bill passed

Digicel CEO Gregory Dean yesterday said his company is optimistic that the configuration of the new Parliament will lead to the long-anticipated liberalization of the telecommunications sector.

Dean, during the company’s end-of-year press briefing at Digicel’s Kingston Head Office, described 2011 as “a mixed year” for the establishment. While the company was able to expand its coverage and to support several social programmes, Dean expressed his disappointment at the government’s failure to pass and implement legislation to end GT&T’s monopoly.

“I suppose the low light of the year is that we are still waiting for the end of the telecommunication monopoly. We are quite hopeful in terms of the new parliament,” Dean said. “I mean all three parties have publicly stated whether in manifestos or in statements to the public that they support an open and competitive telecommunications sector,” he added.  “…So for us, at least on paper, we do not see why there should be any further delay in terms of telecommunications liberalization,” Dean continued, while adding that this would lead to significant benefits for the consumer. He said too that all of the major players involved in this process have indicated a readiness for the sector to be liberalized.

In September, the government declined to pass two pieces of legislation—the Telecommunications Bill 2011 and the Public Utilities Commission (Amendment) Bill 2011—which were expected to end GT&T’s monopoly on international calls and other telecommunications services.

The bills had emerged from select committee but were not passed at the last moment, with senior government member saying that at the last moment some significant comments were made, which led to the government deciding to allow more time for consideration of the bills. Following this move by the government, Digicel called for a full disclosure of the reasons for the failure to pass the pieces of legislation.

Dean yesterday said that the only reasons the company were given was what it heard via the media. He said it appeared that GT&T’s majority shareholder Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) was able to exert pressure on the government to cause the delay. He insisted though that this was not in the best interest of Guyanese.

The CEO said the company is currently not performing to the fullness of its potential because it is at the wrong end of the monopoly.

He said liberalizing the sector would allow the company not only to address the issues of international calls and landline services but also utilize other available technologies.

Meanwhile, Dean also indicated that the company’s Blackberry service continued to do well in spite of the competition being offered by GT&T. He noted though that one of the problems with the Blackberry service is that lots of people use the service as their primary source of internet access due to the high rate of broadband service. He noted that this was not the norm in other territories.

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