GT&T flays new telecoms legislation, regulations
“… does not reflect an understanding of the challenges of Guyana” – CEO
Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) Yog Mahadeo yesterday expressed concerns over the proposed legislation that will govern the telecommunications industry, saying that it does not reflect the challenges of Guyana.
According to Mahadeo, from all indications, by early 2011, the sector will operate under a new telecommunications law and new regulations.
“We are neither averse to, nor afraid of competition…But the rules must be fair and applied evenhandedly, regulation must be sensible and enlightened, regulators and policymakers must not be allowed to pick the winners, and sector policies must encourage rather than deter investment in the rollout of networks and services,” Mahadeo told a gathering of media operatives the company hosted yesterday at its 79 Brickdam headquarters.
Mahadeo indicated that the draft legislation and regulations were shared with the company for their input, and this was done last month.
He explained that their comments were submitted with the caveat they were allowed insufficient time to study and respond to the “voluminous documents”.
“In our opinion, the proposed law and regulations do not reflect an understanding of the challenges of Guyana and/or the telecommunication sector as a whole. In the new dispensation there will be multiple service providers.”
He said that having studied the document, “we are left with numerous concerns – concerns which, if not clarified, will create investor and consumer uncertainty: for example, would it not amount to a rewarding of illegality if a currently illegal operator is automatically granted a licence with the introduction of the new legislation?”
He said that there are also concerns, in that it appears that the absence of stern penalties for bypass in the proposed legislation and regulations may suggest that there is a belief that this illegal activity will disappear with the introduction of greater competition.
“Similarly we are concerned that newcomers may or may not be required to comply with the same set of rules as we have had to.”
He cited as examples interception, spectral fees, licence fees, VAT collection and remittance, among others
“It is also our concern that newcomers will hide under the covers of VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to cover a massive voice network while not being regulated for same and we have already seen public advertisements which have apparently deluded the authorities.”
Mahadeo stressed that GT&T does recognise that with the implementation of the new legislation and regulations, 2011 is likely to be a challenging year for the company.
He pointed out that with the introduction of the new legislation, significant reductions in both international settlement rates and the volume of GT&T’s international traffic are anticipated.
“This does not necessarily translate to any savings being passed on to the consumers.”
He said too that they expect that there will be increased local and data services competition from operators who are not required to make their own investment, but can be allowed to “free-ride on others”.
He spoke too of an expected increased regulatory scrutiny of components of GT&T’s business, which are presumed to be dominant, as well as increased costs to facilitate and routinise additional regulatory impositions.
Mahadeo did stress that in 2011 the relevant stakeholders intend to concentrate their collective energies to distinguish GT&T as Guyana’s Telecom & Technology Company.
As such, he said that they have embarked on an organisational restructuring/re-engineering exercise in conjunction with the elaboration of a strategic plan to transform GT&T into a “next generation, data-centric company”.
“We did so in anticipation of the very developments which are to be introduced next year…We are determined to prosper, not simply survive.”
Mahadeo said that GT&T has grown working fixed line services more than ten-fold, from 13,000 to 149,000 lines, even as they have modernised the network technology.
“Thus, despite Guyana’s relatively low per capita income, our tele-density is currently around 20 percent…This means that the people of Guyana have greater access to fixed line telephone services than people in higher income countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jamaica, Suriname, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.”
He spoke of the Company’s new deep-sea fibre optic cable, and the upgrade of the domestic transmission and other networks, that has made available reliable and relatively cheap high-speed bandwidth.
Mahadeo also used the opportunity to announce an expansion to the company’s Christmas ‘Textmas’ promotion when he said that the person with the most coupons will be the recipient of $1M.
The promotion that is currently running will see some lucky customer winning a Mazda RX-8 motor car.