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KINGSTON — Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, has assured that the Government is fully committed to the six-week timeline that it has given to have changes to the Telecommunications Act brought to Parliament.

Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, in announcing the Government's approval of the acquisition of the Claro network by Digicel on August 30 at a sitting of the House of Representatives, said in light of the takeover, it had become necessary to fast-track specific aspects of the amendments to the Act, to enable the regulator (Office of Utilities Regulation) to discharge its functions more effectively.

“We are also fully committed to making sure that at the end of the day when those regulations have been legislated, that the consumer will be the ultimate beneficiary in terms of competition and rates,” Mr. Vaz stated.

He stressed that during the five months in which the proposed merger was before the government for its consideration, there had been full bi-partisan dialogue on the issues, demonstrating the Government and the Opposition’s commitment to resolving matters of concern to the sector.

In fact, he said, “most of the issues raised by the Opposition Spokesman on telecommunications would be part and parcel of the amendments to be made to the Telecommunications Act within the six weeks mentioned by the Prime Minister”.

He noted that some of the issues raised by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) are already being pursued, such as the matter of number portability. This allows the subscriber to migrate to another network, using the same assigned phone number.

“The regulator has already completed the feasibility study and the cost benefit analysis. The first consultation document on number portability will be issued in September (and) all telecommunications providers will need to participate fully in this exercise in order to complete the matter in the shortest possible time,” he outlined.

Mr. Vaz noted that providers have also indicated that they agree in principle to the introduction of number portability

Some of the amendments that are being fast-tracked include: empowering the regulator to obtain information from licensees without a formal enquiry; the automatic amendment of the terms and conditions of all interconnection agreements to conform to the most current Reference Interconnection Agreement authorised by the regulator; and enabling the regulator to determine application rates and charges to take into account all relevant factors, including cost orientation and local and international benchmarks.

The proposed changes will also empower the regulator to prescribe, after consultation with the Fair Trading Commission, competitive safeguards aimed at preventing anti-competitive activity in the market; and make special provisions to protect small service providers in utilising services offered by large carriers, including the power and responsibility of the regulator to examine and approve customer contracts for wholesale and retail services.

 

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter