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KINGSTON — Efforts are being made to fast track amendments to the Telecommunications Act so as to enable the Office of Utilities and Regulations to discharge its obligations more effectively.

Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, made the disclosure during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday August 30 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, when he announced the Government's approval of the acquisition of Claro by telecommunications company Digicel.

Mr. Golding noted that given the urgency of the need for these amendments, efforts are being made to have the appropriate bill brought to Parliament within the next six weeks.

The Prime Minister further explained that with the acquisition of Claro by Digicel, there was need to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework for the telecommunications industry.

The proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act seek to empower the Regulator (OUR) to obtain information from licensees without a formal enquiry or the burden of proving reasonable grounds for requiring same; and to apply the provisions of the Act regarding interconnection to not only voice but also data and other services.

They also provide for: automatic amendment of the terms and conditions of all interconnection agreements to conform to the most current Reference Interconnection Agreement authorised by the Regulator, including applicable rates and charges as approved from time to time by the Regulator;  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; and provisions to protect non-facilities-based licensees and other wholesale customers against discriminatory and unfair treatment by service providers and carriers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Golding informed that the acquisition of Claro is to be done without any modification to the licences and the obligations contained therein.

He said Digicel will be required to fulfil all of the obligations contained in the Claro licences with regard to the type of facility and specified service that must be provided, its interconnection obligations, licence limitations and network expansion obligations.

Digicel is also obligated to maintain a separate network and complete a separate build-out of 90 per cent penetration of the island as required under the original Claro licences.

“The Fair Trading Commission is considering specific steps that may be taken within its statutory functions to ensure that the acquisition of Claro by Digicel does not adversely impact on the consuming public,” Mr. Golding said.

 

By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter