Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes will today be reading for the second time the Telecommunications Bill (Amendment) 2016, in the National Assembly, nearly two months after it was tabled.
Hughes will move the second reading of the Bill, alongside the second reading of the Public Utilities Commission Bill 2016; both Bills are expected to liberalise the telecommunications sector.
In November 2013, the National Assembly sent the two Bills to a Special Select Committee with the then A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition, who had a one-seat majority in Parliament, indicating that while it supported the Bills, it was uneasy about the then Minister’s control of the process.
The Bills were pushed back several times as the then Government and the two communications giants in Guyana were in discussions to break the monopoly held by the older, GTT.
Hughes, when tabling the Bills, had stated that they were intended to “provide for the establishment of the telecommunication agency and for the regular, coordinated, open and competitive telecommunication sector and for connected matters”.
With regard to the Public Utilities Commission Bill, she stated that it was intended to make provision for the establishment and functioning of the Public Utilities Commission and for matters connected therewith.
Breaking the monopoly in the sector was promised within 100 days of the coalition APNU/AFC attaining office in its elections manifesto. This promise was also made by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government.
GTT, formerly the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) Company, which has claimed a legal monopoly on international voice and data transmissions and the domestic wire-line service in excess of its contracted 20 years, has always declared that the sector was free because of the existence of other service providers. However, the younger company, Digicel has disagreed.