– Harmon tells GPL
By Sunita Samaroo
The Guyana Power and Light Company has admitted that it loses millions annually by private operators utilizing its
infrastructure without paying, but the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) has sought to debunk such claims and at least one politician, has called on the power company to find ways to “reduce tariffs and get off the backs of Guyanese”.
The telecommunications company has said that over the years, the two utilities have essentially enjoyed a “symbiotic relationship.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the power company, Bharrat Dindyal, on Wednesday last, was reported as saying that there is currently no agreement in place with third parties using the company’s utility poles.
Over the years, private cable operators across the country have taken to servicing homes by using the GPL utility poles to string their cables. This informal “pole-sharing” situation, Dindyal indicated, is also one that has been utilized by GT&T.
The CEO had claimed that this state of affairs has continued unhindered by the power company. Dindyal added that GPL is only now looking to put arrangements in place to secure revenue from the cable operators and from GT&T.
Dindyal had reported that the power company is currently looking to finalise a formal agreement which would then be applied across the board.
But by way of public statement yesterday, however, GT&T said that claims by GPL which indicate that they are utilizing the power company’s poles free of charge, are a misrepresentation of the facts.
“The fact is that unlike the other companies seeking access to GPL’s poles, GT&T has a considerable amount of poles across Guyana.
“Consequently, over the years the two utilities have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship whereby each utilizes the other’s poles under a Pole-Sharing Agreement,” the telecommunications company said.
GT&T went on to say that with the recent surge in demand for pole space occasioned by the roll-out of cable television
(TV) and other services, GPL has understandably expressed a preference for pole tenancy agreements with companies wishing to make connections to its poles.
“Currently, negotiations of a pole tenancy agreement between GT&T and GPL are well advanced and should be concluded shortly.”
In fact, the telecommunications company’s statements are in accordance with those of the GPL CEO, who had said that the power company is currently looking to finalise a formal agreement. According to Dindyal, this agreement would then be applied across the board.
Additionally, a cable TV operator who spoke to Kaieteur News said that an arrangement has been made with GPL, and since the beginning of last year the company has been waiting on GPL to “work out prices.”
The situation is compounded further with the fact that on an annual basis GPL is handed billions of dollars in subsidies which would mean that the power company is in effect subsidizing the operations of the private cable operators.
The power company, had said, that at present it is unaware of just how many cable operators are stringing cables on its poles. The CEO also said that he could not quantify just how much money has been lost.
In an invited comment, General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Joseph Harmon, said that GPL has always been about looking to raise its tariffs “to get money off the backs of Guyanese people.”
The electricity company, he posited, could look for other ways to raise money which could take the heat off the company; not requiring them passing the expense off on the Guyanese people.
“When you look at the way they are spending money given by Parliament, we (APNU) are not satisfied that GPL has a plan for the long term development of the company.”
The Member of Parliament said that in the past when his party examined the modus operandi of the company, calls were
made for certain documents to be produced and “some have been, but some have not.”
Harmon said “If we have better management in GPL, we could have a better-run company that would redound to Guyanese electricity consumers.”
The General Secretary also added that there is Telecommunications Reform Legislation which questions the sharing of poles and speaks to the need for an agreement for the rental of same. The matter, he said, is at the level of the Select Committee.
In discussing the roles of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Harmon divulged that focus had been given to the sharing of facilities (such as poles) being subjected to commercial agreement. “It’s amazing that they are now talking about that,” he added.
Over 8,000 power poles are in use by a number of local cable companies, including E-Networks, Bartica Communications and Atlantic Cable TV Network (ACN).
E-Networks has been stringing cables along GPL’s poles across the country. That company and Quark Communications Inc. were among two companies controversially given the go-ahead to run cable TV services by former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Both companies, along with Global Technology, are now poised to be handed telecommunications licences once the pending amendments to the current laws are passed.
These licences will also allow both to offer telephone services, mobile services, internet and a host of other important services in demand.
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