Telecommunications Bill 2012 - Bill No. 18 of 20123236 07 Nov, 2013
Telecommunications Bill 2012 - Bill No. 18 of 2012 – Nov 07, 2013
Mr. T. Williams: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to make my contribution, more so the Alliance For Change’s (AFC’s) contribution, to the Telecommunications Bill 2012. We have always taken the position that this Bill should be sent to a Special Select Committee because, of course, it is highly complex and it is a landmark piece of legislation that would finally open up the telecommunications sector in this country.
Available evidence would demonstrate that since 2007 limited competition on the mobile front was introduced and customers have been the big winners in many areas.
Domestic rates: call charges have reduced from 44% per minute basis to $20 charge on a per second basis, a saving of over 50% for customers ignoring the numerous “free after 3” and “free after 2” promotions.
Barriers to entry: prior to competition, customers had to pay a $4,500 activation fee and we see this vanishing even with the presence of limited competition. We see handset prices going down and coverage in many areas across Guyana being accessible to more Guyanese and, of course, making life a lot easier.
This Bill seeks to address the end of a monopoly, but I concur with the comments of my Colleague, who spoke before, that we are seeking to end the telecommunications monopoly but monopolising power in the hands of the Prime Minister.
I wish to highlight just a few instances and I promise not to be very long because most of the issues have been covered already.
If we look at page 30, under clause 25 (1), it states:
“Any body corporate or group of affiliated bodies corporate that operates a private telecommunications network or provides any private telecommunications service –
(a) shall not be required to obtain a licence or exemption pursuant to this Act, except where the Minister determines that the circumstances require the licensing thereof;”
There is no reference to the Minister operating in a non-discriminatory manner and so we believe that many of these clauses of this Bill must be looked at in detail.
I move you further to clause 26 (2):
“A person owning or holding a significant interest in a licensee shall not sell, transfer, charge or otherwise dispose of such interest, or any part thereof, without the prior written consent of the Minister.”
It is very vaguely written and it does not stipulate what constitutes a significant interest in a licensee. It is just another point to note of the vagueness.
Network access obligations: another interesting point where service providers will be obligated to allow third parties to utilise their infrastructure to resell services. Mr. Speaker, if you were to invest in a telecommunications infrastructure, it is not fair for one person to invest and another to sit back and wait and enjoy the uses thereof. This legislation does not emphasise any obligations on the person who will inherit the benefit. This, we see, will bring major challenges after this Bill has been passed.
I go quickly to the section which deals with street removal or obstruction of/and access to land. Very interestingly, the penalties outlined here are very heavy and we see that after the offence has been committed, apart from the threat of imprisonment and a stipulated amount, there is an indication that for every day of the offence thereafter, a sum of money will be charged on the offender. This, of course, does not reference the involvement of the courts. It is hardly likely that a person facing this kind of penalty will not approach the courts and, hence, we believe this Bill ought to make reference to the court intervening in such matters.
I now come to the powers of the Prime Minister. Clauses 23 (2) and 30 (2) indicate the procedure for obtaining licence, but if one goes to page 90, clause 6 (a), states:
“With effect from the appointed day, the licences issued under the Telecommunications Act 1990 to Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company Limited and to Cel*Star Guyana, Inc. and transferred to U-Moblile (Cellular) Inc., and all authorisations for the use of the spectrum or the installation or operation of radio communication equipment issued by the Unit to any of them, shall stand terminated, and the Minister shall issue individual licences and frequency authorisations under this Act to Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company Limited and U- Mobile (Cellular) Inc., and individual licences and frequency...”
Here, we see that an opportunity for discriminatory practice exists and this should take into consideration the clause which includes licences, authorisation of all forms shall not be restricted to previous rights. In other words, the sector will now be opened. It will be liberalised and, therefore, there should be clauses that protect applicants against prejudicial behaviour.
The AFC, like all Guyana, welcomes the liberalisation of this sector. It is no secret that in this hemisphere we are the last country in the Caribbean to experience liberalisation, meaning we pay higher for less. We go overseas and we wonder why we cannot enjoy the similar benefits like those overseas are. The time has long gone for this sector to be opened up and liberalised. The Select Committee, we believe, must entertain submissions from all stakeholders and give a full opportunity for the crafting of legislation that will do justice.
On the issue of universal service fund, I did hear the Hon. Prime Minister mention the justification that moneys put aside will be used to extend services to areas that are otherwise unserved. It is a very good idea but I wish to bring to the Prime Minister’s notice that the GSMA Latin America recently did a study and they found that 15 of 32 universal service funds had collected over US$6 billion and only 27% of that was redistributed to industries and 73% remained unspent. We, in the AFC, are very cautious of having moneys picked up and tucked away, whether they become slush funds and do not find themselves into the Consolidated Fund... This is one of the issues that service providers will have when there is the demand for them to pay more and they do not see the money being redistributed.
Guyana is almost a saturated market with telecommunications with one service provider boasting 95% coverage and the other almost covering the country at large. In this case, a universal service fund to service unserved areas might need to be revisited because pretty soon in Guyana we will have nobody who does not have access to at least minimal telecommunications services.
We also wish to make the point that some of these measures like mobile network access obligations can be considered draconian and punitive and these should only be called upon when there is market failure. In Guyana, there has not been market failure because this sector has not been opened, and even with the limited competition that we have, we see the aggression of providers to cover as much space across the country.
I believe that this legislation needs to be revisited in the Select Committee and all of these points that my Colleagues and I have ventilated should be addressed by submissions from all stakeholders.
Thank you. [Applause]
Related Member of Parliament
Related Member of Parliament
Budget 2019 Speech
03 Dec, 2018 / 3429
Statement to the National Assembly on Thursday December 14th, 2017 by the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl B. Greenidge on the Exxon “signing bonus”
14 Dec, 2017 / 7972
BUDGET SPEECH 2018 - Honourable Mr. Winston D. Jordan , M.P. Minister of Finance
27 Nov, 2017 / 5383