Telecoms Bill unchanged from 2012 – Williams

The recently tabled Telecommuni-cations (Amendment) Bill 2016 is the same piece of proposed legislation which was brought to the National Assembly by the then PPP/C administration in 2012, Attorney General Basil Williams said yesterday.

Williams revealed that there were no changes as everything that was required was already contained in the bill.

The 102-page bill was recently uploaded to the website of the Official Gazette for public viewing is a clear sign on the part of the government at renewed efforts to liberalise the telecommunications sector.

Speaking at a press conference, Williams said that in the last Parliament there was a Special Select Committee comprising representatives of both sides of the House looking at the Bill. He said that the Bill was examined fully, adding that it was actually drafted by two persons including an expert.

He said that with regard to the Telecoms Bill and the Public Utilities Commission (Amendment) Bill “there is nothing different in the legislature and substantially it is the same bills that are being brought at this time and they are long overdue too.”

The previous Bill had been the subject of consultations with telecoms providers and other stakeholders. It had been before a Parliamentary Select Committee since November 2013 and Digicel had repeatedly lamented the long delayed passage and enactment of the legislation.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), which has asserted a legal monopoly on international voice and data transmissions and the domestic wireline service, has maintained that the landscape has been liberalised because of the existence of other service providers. Digicel has criticized the company, saying that it has held back telecommunication development in Guyana for the past 25 years.

In November 2013, the National Assembly committed the Telecommunications Bill and the Public Utilities Commission (Amendment) Bill to a special select committee with the then Opposition saying that while it supported the Bills, it had concerns over the power of the minister among other things.

Following their first readings, the Bills were deferred a number of times as the then government and the two major telecommunications providers held talks to iron out issues regarding the ending of the monopoly held by GTT.

Liberalisation of the sector had been promised within 100 days of APNU+AFC taking office, according to its elections manifesto. Prior to APNU+AFC taking office, the PPP/C government had also promised an end to the GTT monopoly and liberalisation.

Promises were made over a 10-year period to no avail.

When the Bill was tabled last month, subject minister Cathy Hughes had informed that it was intended “to provide for the establishment of the telecommunication agency and for the regular, coordinated, open and competitive telecommunication sector and for connected matters.”

She added that the PUC bill was intended to make provision “for the establishment, function and procedure of the Public Utilities Commission and for matters connected therewith.”


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