Newly-appointed Chair-man of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Dela Britton said yesterday that the body is being “retooled” in preparation for the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.
Britton, an attorney-at-law by profession took the oath of office during a ceremony at State House and replaces retired judge Prem Persaud who demitted office at the end of March after serving for nearly two decades.
Asked about her immediate priority, she said that given that the country is on the cusp of telecoms liberalisation, the Commission is “being retooled and I hit the ground running tomorrow (today) to have in place all the necessary directives because our mandate under the new regulations will expand beyond what is currently in place, so plans are afoot right now to have all the things in place before liberalisation comes into force”.
She was unable to say if the commission has “all the required brains” but said that there is a dynamic group of professionals as well as commissioners with years of experience who are all schooled on how to operate and how to deliberate on certain issues.
Britton explained that retooling means having the necessary personnel in place to assist the commission. “…our duties are strict under the legislation and because they are strict (it) means we have mandatory obligations to the consumers, to the utility, the telecoms utility and to the minister”.
She said that presently the commission advises the minister but is aiming to have a greater collaboration with the ministry.
Britton was admitted to the Guyana Bar in November 1995 after completing her Legal Education Certificate at the Hugh Wooding Law School. A few years later she enrolled in the Fordham University School of Law to pursue a Masters of Law in International Trade Policy, Intellectual Property, Corporate Governance and International Law.
President David Granger in his remarks said that the PUC during its 27 years existence has enforced a regime of regulations that safeguards the public interest without jeopardizing the economic sustainability of those utilities.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes reminded that the legislation which paved the way to liberalise the sector was passed in the National Assembly last August and subsequently assented to by the President.
Hughes said that she is working to have the sector liberalised by the end of July, noting that the whole process of spectrum management pricing has to be looked at.
She explained that the National Frequency Management Unit now comes under a new telecoms agency as outlined in the legislation. “…they are looking at the structure of that agency, the skills that will be required, how we are going to be able to merge a frequency management unit. The legislation has several different new requirements and we are working on all of that and at the same time, there are negotiations with ATN and GTT that are going ahead almost like two tracks at the same time”, she said.
She said that the discussions with the two telecommunications companies are going very well but are very detailed. Hughes pointed out that other agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) are involved in this process.
She said that the outstanding issues with GTT include concerns about the new pricing of spectrum.
“It is a completely new system and a new process and therefore it takes time to plan it, to get the right people and to move ahead but I have put a very ambitious date of the end of July and I am saying if we miss it, it is going to be as close we can after that”, she said.