PUC to rule in 60 days on GTT’s proposed new increases

Commissioners and other members of the Public Utilities Commission (at centre) along with the representatives of GTT (at the left) and representatives of the Guyana Consumers Association (at right).

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will rule within 60 days on the application by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) for increases in wireline access and landline metered charges, Chairperson Dela Britton announced yesterday.

The announcement was made at a second hearing on GTT’s application, The company has applied for approval to implement bundled packages for its wireline services, to increase wireline access charges and to increase landline metered charges for intra-network calls.

The first hearing was held on October 24th and GTT’s Legal and Regulatory Affairs head Mark Reynolds said then that the present application seeks to address the gap that exists between the cost of the provision of service for landlines and their current tariff.

Reynolds said that a balance in tariff would improve the telecommunications sector, which would encourage service providers to invest in technology.

He explained yesterday that the bundles were conceptualised based on a review of the call patterns of GTT’s customers.

“Essentially, we had done an analysis of what would be the best price on it in terms of what the customer would want, what they would be able to afford, and those are the numbers we presented to the Commission based on our analysis,” he said.

Reynolds explained that residential bundles are offered as a way to reach out to a group of customers that are disenfranchised. “…And even though there are certain ramifications based on the client usage of the landline service, we highly anticipate that once the customers are operating within that there will be no further need for them to have additional rates that are applicable to the service,” he further noted.

“This is the first time we are offering this product to our customers. It is novel and as a result of it, it is more of a way of us trying a new variety of product to add life to the landline service. It’s no secret that there is a decline for the need for the services based on the factors that you have competition [and] there are several modes of communication…,” he added, while noting that the company is trying to add relevance to the landline service based on a rebalancing process and it was focused on what the customers will be able to afford against the cost to provide the service.

However, accountant Ramon Gaskin also made submissions in which he strongly opposed the application, saying the requested rate increases are unjustified.

Gaskin noted that the company’s argument about its viability being threatened is null and void since it currently has over $11 billion in cash equivalent sitting in its coffers.

He said GTT has yet to provide any reason that is valid for their application to increase the rates and as a result, the PUC should reject the application altogether.

“…The failure to provide the justification other than this thing about competition coming. There’s no justification other than that silliness about competition. When the competition comes and you run into trouble, you have to come here to deal with viability… you can’t tell me now that with over $11 billion in the bank and $5.6 billion in subsidiaries you want more money from me now,” he said.

Head of the Guyana Consumers Association (GCA) Patrick Dial also objected to the application for a second time and said that he wanted to refute the claims that the landlines are becoming irrelevant.

He said there are a large number of persons that are interested in new landline services and the Association had even provided a list of those persons to the company some time ago and it has not yet received a response.

“I would dismiss this talk about people don’t want landlines… Just put it out in an advertisement and you will see the number of people who will ask for landlines,” he said.

He also noted that the term rebalancing that the telecommunications company keeps peddling is a euphemism and emphasised that any potential entrants interested in the market would do their due diligence before coming.

Advisor to the GCA Yog Mahadeo, who is a former Chief Executive of GTT, also made submissions and scrutinised the company’s financial statements that were provided to the PUC.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Reynolds urged the PUC to consider the company’s points.  

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