(Jamaica Observer) Parliament yesterday sanctioned amendments to the 11-year-old Telecoms Act, signalling the end to any possibility of monopoly in the telecoms market and paving the way for “a massive decline in rates locally and internationally”, according to Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell.
“We want now to put on track this issue of number portability. It is full time that I should be able, with a number I have for 25 years (for example), to take it to another provider and say this is my number and I want service,” Paulwell told the House of Representatives to shouts of ‘hear, hear’ and desk-thumping approval.
The applause in the House reverberated in the corporate headquarters of telecoms giant LIME which has been advocating an amendment to the Act in a long-running feud with arch-rival Digicel.
“The introduction of this amended legislation is good news for consumers and will start to bring the country closer in line with other markets globally,” a news release from LIME quoted Garry Sinclair, managing director for LIME Jamaica and Cayman.
“We have taken a step towards a levelling of the playing field and as soon as the regulators take the appropriate steps under the new law, providers will better be able to compete on real market issues such as price, innovation and customer service. Consequently, consumers will benefit from increased value, better products and improved service,” he added.
LIME chairman Chris Dehring also commented on the amendments, saying “the changes to the legislation are in the best interest of the nation, consumers and other stakeholders and we at LIME look forward to vigorous competition where all the players can contend from an equal position”.
The Telecoms Act 2000 was introduced when the then Cable & Wireless, now LIME, operated as a monopoly. Under that Act, Cable & Wireless was granted exclusivity for domestic landline telephony as well as for international telephone service. Since then, the landscape has changed with the entrance of players like Digicel and Claro, although the latter was subsumed.
An Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy for Jamaica was tabled in Parliament in April last year under the former administration, highlighting the inadequacy of the current legislation to meet the needs of the liberalised and converged ICT environment with recommendations for the promulgation of an ICT Act to address these concerns.
Yesterday, Paulwell said the decision had been taken to amend the Telecommunications Act to, in the interim, address some of the major concerns highlighted in the ICT policy, among other things.
He said other provisions have been included in the amended Act to allow for the optimal functioning of the telecommunications industry.
Based on the Bill which was passed with five amendments yesterday, the Telecommunications Act 2000 has been amended to address the sharing of telecommunications facilities and infrastructure where feasible, allowing the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to take into account when determining rates, all relevant factors including cost orientation and local and international benchmarks.