Mar 20, 2016 News
– Minister Hughes
Within a month’s time, the National Assembly will be examining legislation that should see the liberalization of the telecommunications sector. This is according to Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes.
She said this during an interview with Kaieteur News on Friday. The Minister was quite clear about the passage she wants the Telecommunications Bill to take before reaching the National Assembly.
According to Hughes, it is very important to her and her Ministry that the stakeholders are comfortable with the content of the Bill. She said that by next week the Bill will be sent to key stakeholders for their input. The Bill will be sent to the Private Sector Commission, and a few Non Governmental Organizations, Hughes informed.
Also, it will be sent specifically to the main players in the telecommunications sector—the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) and Digicel Guyana. These two companies had already played a major role in the formulation of the current Bill, but Hughes said that “much has changed” over the five years the Bill has been in limbo.
The Minister stressed that it should not be long before the Bill can reach the House. In this regard, she said that she will be giving the stakeholders 10 days to two weeks to examine the Bill. It will then be taken to Cabinet and fine tuned within a week. If all goes well, Hughes said, the Bill will be ready within a week after it has been taken to Cabinet.
Last August, the then Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman, announced that Government has given approval for the appointment of overseas-based Janice Brendman and Geeta Ragubir as consultants to complete the work on the Telecommunications Bill.
The Bill, which was first introduced in 2011 and revised in 2013, was at the level of a Select Committee in the 10th Parliament. It is set to address concerns, including those of the industry’s stakeholders.
The Bill was on the verge of conclusion in the Special Select Committee during the 10th Parliament, but was put on hold on account of the prorogation of Parliament.
The Telecommunications Bill seeks to create a competitive regime in the telecommunications sector. It provides for an open, liberalized and competitive sector that will be attractive to new market entrants and investors, while preserving the activities of the current participants.
By creating this competitive environment for telecommunications, the Bill is expected to result in greater choice, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers. The Bill also specifically addresses the expansion of telecommunication networks and services into unserved and under-served areas, through the institution of a new universal access/universal service programme, in an effort to further national, regional, social and economic development.
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