I refer to an article in the Kaieteur News of 15th May 2018 captioned “Telecoms liberalisation talks…Govt. under pressure to auction frequencies”.
The reason why Vic Insanally and myself were framed for corruption but later cleared of all charges was because I was exposing too much shenanigans at the NFMU during the previous government’s tenure.
I have written on it before and I presented the facts to Major General Joseph Singh at the Commission of Inquiry, and I also presented it to Mr. Joseph Harmon and to the Jamaican consultant who was brought here to advice on the occupation of spectrum, with a view to introduction of Digital television. In speaking to him and explaining what I uncovered, he told me that the report he has from the NFMU did not disclose those facts.
Amazingly the newspaper report, based I presume on information from somewhere in Government, asks the question: when are the frequencies going to be auctioned? The answer is simple; the choicest ones have already been given away.
When I became a director of the Broadcast Authority – in pursuance of my role as the licensing Subcommittee chairman etc., I saw that the usual analog UHF frequencies which are TV channels 14 to 83 were no longer available to broadcasting, only channels 14 to 50 were, and that E Networks was occupying eight of the frequencies between 14 to 50, and he is not a broadcaster.
Here is a quote from a letter I wrote at the time, published in the Kaieteur News: “since channels 14 through 83 occupy frequencies between 470 MHz to 890 MHz, to limit those frequencies to 470 to 690 MHz and in addition, having so severely restricted the UHF TV spectrum, E-Networks was allowed to conduct MMDS wireless cable services in that band and was occupying 8 channels between channel 38 to 50”.
This inevitably further deprived broadcasters of bandwidth, especially since Minister Shadick had already announced that there are no frequencies left in the UHF band for Georgetown and its environs. In April 2014 the Jamaican government announced that they had auctioned the frequencies from 700 – 800 MHz UHF TV channels for 25 million US dollars to Digicel for allocating them these frequencies in the UHF broadcast band to deliver data, Internet applications, and video streaming at higher speeds.
We are not aware that E-Networks were required to pay anything for the use of the UHF Broadcast frequencies they were using, i.e. between 600 MHz to 700 MHZ. There is also no evidence anywhere why channels 69 to 83, i.e. 800-882 MHz were given away and to whom, but they had to be given to someone, since these frequencies are no longer available for Broadcasting in Guyana.
Editor, it is for this reason why I was in direct conflict with the NFMU and the Chairman of the Broadcast Authority, who was in my opinion protecting NFMU for whatever reasons he had.
These are the most coveted frequencies 700-882 MHz since being below 1000 MHz they propagate much better in our moist and rain-filled atmosphere. A good example was that E-Networks was using these preferred frequencies 550-600 MHz in their wireless cable transmissions, and their signals were getting almost to Mahaica whilst a competitor to E-Networks could not get their signal even to LBI, since they were using the correct MMDS frequency of 2500 MHZ and this high frequency was not propagating well in our water-filled atmosphere.
After explaining these facts to Major General Joe Singh, I expected that something would be done, unfortunately it was not covered in his terms of reference and was never reported to the media, since I could not show them my statement to the COI.
But in trying to expose it, this was the main reason why I was framed for corruption. Poor Vic Insanally, one of the most decent men I know, was targeted, but it was me they wanted to frame for corruption.
Now that we have lost the 700 to 890 MHZ band of frequencies, and there is no evidence that anyone paid anything for it, the telephone operators now want to bid for more frequencies.
I know that Digicel has received these low band frequencies, since the NFMU had to disclose it when a television operator was interfering with their operations in La Penitence.
The NFMU told the broadcaster to come off the air because they were interfering with Digicel, but I instructed the operator to continue broadcasting, since Digicel was not supposed to be operating that low in the spectrum and I wanted the NFMU to advise the Authority why and how that could happen.
I have no direct evidence that GT&T was given these low band frequencies, but I am sure that a proper investigation would disclose that it has between 800 to 890 MHz. Now apparently the cell services want even more spectrum, i.e.1300 MHz and 1700 MHz bands, but I believe that old business should be taken care of first before we begin discussing new matters and new frequencies.
What I find completely unacceptable is that certain persons employed at the National Frequency Management Unit, where fiscal examinations and audits done two and a half years ago by the Auditor General have revealed that there was gross mismanagement, are still there.
As far as GT&T is concerned I have competent legal advice that there should not be any reason for giving them any concessions now. As far as the Minister in charge of all this and the persons who are alleging that they are competent to advise her, I have serious reservations.
As far as the current members of the Broadcast Authority are concerned, I have no evidence any one of them holds any real technical broadcasting knowledge, leaving their sole technical advisor, the head of the NFMU, Valmiki Singh, who is a non-voting director of the Broadcast Authority. It is therefore inevitable that none of the members of this new board has any concept of what is really going on. I leave it to the public to decide if that makes any sense or is actually a recipe for disaster.
In the end, it is the Guyanese people who are adversely affected by all of this, the giveaway of spectrum has cost the Guyanese people almost 40 million US dollars, the Digicel/GT&T situation is impossible with the extremely high charges GT&T levies to allow Digicel to access GT&T cell and land lines. Nowhere else have I found such a ridiculous situation; forcing those Guyanese who make a lot of calls, to walk around with two phones, paying two bills. Furthermore, we have not converted to digital television as yet, but for several years now the NFMU has and is allowing TV frequencies to be allocated to E-Networks and the telephone systems as if we have converted to digital, leaving the Guyanese citizens in regions 2, 3 and 4 with fewer broadcast TV choices.
Finally, it is as if a Public Utilities Commission does not exist in Guyana, and apparently only takes a hand in matters when the now impoverished government is not getting its dividends from a utility company as recently happened. When exactly will we say, enough!
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