JIS News

The Ministry of Transport and Works will soon be charging private utility companies for the usage of the rights-of-way on the public thoroughfares, including sidewalks and the road itself.
The proposal, which is now before Cabinet, stipulates that ‘no private entity is to be allowed to profit from the use of the public rights-of-way without compensating the public for its use.’ Minister of Transport and Works, Mike Henry informed JIS News that the proposal arose when he learnt that the arrangements in place for utility and other service providers using the rights-of way did not include paying the State for the access, from which, he said, they have been profiting handsomely. “The utility bills generally reflect charges for simply accessing the various companies’ networks along the rights-of-way, but what has been happening is that while they charge the customer for accessing their networks along the rights-of-way, the utility companies themselves have not been paying for having that same access, and we are looking to change that to what obtains in the developed world,” the Minister explained.
Mr. Henry said the utility companies have been informed and as such, no private utility company would be spared payments when the proposal takes effect. “Make no mistake about it, from communication, electricity, water, heating, gas, sewage, you name it, they will attract compensation to the state for the [use] of the rights-of-way.which is where we are seeking to go,” he said.
The new rights-of-way policy is proposed to be applied to private users who exist or opt to enter numerous areas of operation such as gas, electricity, cable television, telecommunications, water and sewage services. The amount charged will depend largely on the actual usage of the rights-of-way.
Mr. Henry outlined that the revenue generated from these companies would be used to repair and rehabilitate the existing road network. “The revenue from this source would be able to do a great deal in terms of repairing and rehabilitating our roads and general infrastructure, as we inherited about 60 per cent of roads in less than desirable condition,” he said.
He pointed out that under the proposed policy, an inventory of the various types of infrastructure within and under the rights-of-way would also be established. This, he said, was because major logistical problems have resulted from road work teams discovering private underground network equipment in the way of road work projects. A recent technical analysis done on the existing use of the rights-of-way by the Ministry revealed that no such inventory exists.
“In essence, when for example, a contract is awarded for major rehabilitation of a roadway, it is not until the road is dug up to facilitate the construction process, that whatever service network facilities that are underground are determined,” he said. “Apart from the logistical nightmare the situation presents, it also hampers the planning for and management of the rights-of-way,” he added.
Late last year when the National Works Agency (NWA) was widening the Bogue to Montego Bay roadway, telecommunication cables were found underground, thereby halting the work. A similar situation occurred when widening and resurfacing work was being done on sections of lower Constant Spring to facilitate the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre.
Among the private service providers currently using the rights-of-way are Cable and Wireless, Digicel, Flow and the Jamaica Public Service Company.

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