JIS News

The government of Jamaica has imposed a levy on incoming international calls, from which it expects to earn $1 billion to facilitate the creation of a Universal Service Fund to finance the implementation of the national e-learning project.
The levy, which becomes effective on June 1, will see all telecommunications carriers paying US$0.03 per minute on all incoming international calls terminating on the fixed wired networks, and US$0.02 on all incoming international calls terminating on the cellular networks.
Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell, who made the announcement at a press conference held at his Trafalgar Road offices this morning (May 18), said the payments would be made by all licence holders terminating minutes into the island.
The development is as a result of the government of Jamaica having signed an order for the imposition of a levy on incoming international telephone calls. The order is pursuant to sections 38 and 39 of the Telecommunications Act (2000), which make provision for the imposition of universal service charge to a maximum of five per cent of revenues, for the establishment of the Universal Service Fund to provide subsidized access to the telecommunication services. This is under an agreed universal service programme, geared toward the achievement of defined national developmental objectives.
“After months of negotiations and consultations with the telecommunications industry, Cabinet has approved Jamaica’s first universal service programme, which is designed to significantly increase the population’s access to data services and the Internet,” Mr. Paulwell told journalists.
He emphasized that the levy would not be a charge on the Jamaican consumer, as it would only be applied to incoming international calls.
The Minister further informed that a local delegation had recently travelled to the United States to discuss the imposition of the charge, as that country had the highest number of international minutes into Jamaica. “Consultations were held with the State Department, the Department of Commerce, the United States Trade representative, the Federal Communication Commission and the major carriers of international traffic into Jamaica,” Mr. Paulwell said.
He added, “we received good understanding and no adverse reaction, as the US authorities were satisfied with our intention to apply the levy in a non-discriminatory manner and (that it) would not be in breach of the WTO (World Trade Organisation).
Jamaica undertook this consultation even though sovereign governments internationally define and require surcharges for meeting their universal service requirements irrespective of whether the burden is borne by local or international consumers”.
Mr. Paulwell commended the unity displayed by Jamaican providers Digicel, Cable and Wireless Jamaica and Oceanic Digital. “We are all agreed that we are approaching this in one accord because it is for the national good,” he stated.
A special purpose company to be called the Universal Service Fund Company, has been established to collect, manage, and disburse funds. It will be owned by the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) and the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Jean Dixon.
Colin Campbell, who chairs the SMA, will also chair this company. Other members of the board are: Dr. Jean Dixon, Vice Chairman; Chairperson of the SMA’s Finance Committee, Sheree Martin; Attorney at Law Minette Palmer; President of the Jamaica Computer Society, Herman Athias; a representative of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, and two representatives from the telecommunications companies.
The core functions and mandate of the company will be: to collect the levy from telecommunications companies; analyse projects of a universal services obligation nature and make recommendations to Cabinet for approval; disburse funds for the implementation of approved initiatives; and monitor the implementation of projects and account for funds collected and disbursed. The company will work closely with the e-learning company board of directors, which is chaired by Professor Errol Miller.
Minister Paulwell said he had every confidence that, “the fund and the team that Cabinet has put to oversee this obligation of the government will ensure that the objectives are met”.
He said sound management and effective implementation would be the hallmark of the project, noting that this was critical to preparing the country for the knowledge-based society, as was set out in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) strategic plan.

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