7th Oct 2020
Guyana’s Telecommunications Sector was formally liberalised on Monday with the Government issuing the Commencement Orders to fully bring into force the Telecommunications Act 2016 and the Public Utilities Commission Act 2016.
Both laws were passed in the National Assembly since 2016 but were never brought into force by the previous APNU+AFC Government.
But within two months of assuming office, the People’s Progressive Party Government has sought to move the process forward with Prime Minister Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips issuing the orders and putting aside a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the Coalition Government had signed with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT).
The liberalisation, while allowing for completion and an expansion of services, essentially ends the monopoly GTT holds.
“The commencement of these Acts is nothing less than historic, aligning Guyana’s telecommunications regime to those found in other countries in the world, including most Caribbean countries, ending a thirty-year-old anti-competitive telecommunications monopoly, that has left Guyanese weary, frustrated and lagging behind in the telecommunications arena,” the Prime Minister noted in a statement.
It is anticipated that Guyanese will feel an immediate positive impact from the implementation of these legislation, which create a modern and competitive environment for telecommunications, and which will immediately result in greater choices, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers.
The liberalisation also seeks to ensure that all operators continue to enjoy all benefits conferred under the old legislative regime.
“This decisive step is consistent with our Government’s vision of furthering national and regional social and economic development. The legislation specifically addresses the expansion of telecommunications networks and services into unserved and underserved areas through the institution of a new universal access/universal services programme,” the statement added.
The legislation creates a clear, harmonised framework and a level playing field for the sector that is currently lacking, and which are characterised by transparency and non-discrimination in the issuance and monitoring of licences and authorisations to use the spectrum, seamless interconnection and access between and among telecommunications networks and services, and price regulation where required to ensure competition and at the same time guarantees equal treatment of stakeholders, to the ultimate benefit and protection of consumers.
The Telecommunications Act 2016 was first laid by the PPP Government in the 9th Parliament in August 2011, and laid again in the 10th Parliament in 2012, after extensive consultations with both the public and operators.
During the life of both Parliaments, the Act enjoyed bipartisan support. It spent considerable time before a select committee, chaired by Carl Greenidge, and included Former Prime Minister Samuels Hinds, and then Minister Mohamed Irfaan Ali.
The Act was finalised before the 2015 elections and was enacted by the Coalition Government in 2016 by Minister Catherine Hughes, again with bipartisan support.