After years of anticipation, Digicel Guyana is now breathing a sigh of relief, saying that it welcomes the passage of the Telecommunications Bill, which legislated the liberalisation of the sector.
“The passage of this Bill is the first step in the long overdue ending of the telephone monopoly, which is a laudable achievement and a position that Digicel supports,” Digicel Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kevin Kelly said.
He added that the communications giant would now await engagement with the Government to discuss its licence and regulations for an open competitive sector.
“We believe this will create a competitive sector and will result in many benefits in terms of new and improved services for the people of Guyana.”
Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes was the key speaker in Parliament on Monday when the Bill was read for the second and third time. It was first introduced in 2011 and revised in 2013, and had been at the level of a Special Select Committee in the 10th Parliament. The Bill addresses concerns, including those of the industry’s stakeholders and will break the more-than-20-year monopoly.
In her presentation, Hughes pleaded with the House for it to recognise the importance of information and communication technology as the transformational agent for the overall improvement of citizens’ lives and the building of a 21st Century economy.
According to Hughes, the eagerly-anticipated landmark legislation will provide for an open, competitive telecommunications sector where new market entrants and investors will be attracted to invest in the country.
However, the rushing through of the Bill did not go down well with the Opposition which pointed out that certain sections of the Bill needed to be reviewed.
“We are taking all the powers and putting it monopolistically in the hands of the Minister…their powers are too much and too great for the Ministers,” Opposition Member of Parliament Irfaan Ali argued, stating that the Bill was moving the monopoly from a company straight into the hands of the Minister. He further stated that the passage of the Bill in its present state would move the country backwards from a “monopolistic position to dictatorship”.
However, Hughes argued that with the passage of the Bill consumers would be given more options and access to reliable and advanced telecommunications services.
After six hours of debate with eight speakers and back and forth heckling, the Bill was passed.
Meanwhile, GTT, formerly the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, which had a legal monopoly on international voice and data transmissions and the domestic wireline service, has always declared that the sector was free because of the existence of other service providers.
The company, in a full-page ad, welcomed the passage of the Bill, saying it would lead to lower international rates, faster Internet, better customer service and a wider range of products. GTT also said it would discuss the issue at a press conference today.