22nd Feb 2013

Source: Guyana Times

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company has lost its request to stay the enforcement of the order of Justice Rishi Persaud pending appeal, which had declared the monopoly held by the company as unlawful and awarded $1 million in damages to a man who had sued the telephone giant. GT&T has since appealed the decision and was granted an interim injunction which must be filed in 14 days.

Justice BS Roy on Friday refused to stay Justice Persaud’s June 19, 2012 order, which directed GT&T to pay entrepreneur James Samuels $1,000,000 in damages and declaring GT&T to be an unlawful monopoly. Samuels, who was previously represented by Charles Ramson, SC, is currently represented by attorneys Parmanand Mohanlall and Dave Kissoon of Cozen O’Connor, with Miles Fitzpatrick, SC and Timothy Jonas representing GT&T.

Samuels had applied for and was provided with DSL Internet service by GT&T in 2006, which holds an exclusive licence for national and international voice and data transmission under the Telecommunication Act 1990. After the Internet service was installed on the plaintiff’s computer located at his residence in Georgetown, he subscribed to a Voice Over Internet Protocol Service (VOIP) provided by the Vonage Company of the United States of America. Vonage enables a subscriber to send and receive voice communication electronically over the Internet by use of a personal computer.

Samuels had written GT&T to inform them of his intention to utilise the VOIP service in Guyana, to which GT&T replied advising him that under the terms of his contract with the defendant, he was prohibited from utilising the DSL service for international telephone activities or for international telephone bypass, and blocked Samuel’s Internet access, thereby disrupting the DSL service which was provided to him. GT&T had contended that the disruption of the service was justified since the plaintiff was unlawfully operating an unlicensed telecommunication service in contravention of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act, Act 27 of 1990 and of the defendant’s contract and licence with the government of Guyana.

As a consequence, Samuels instituted proceedings in the High Court seeking, inter alia, a declaration that there is a breach of the contract executed between himself and GT&T for the provision of the DSL service for his premises at 292 Church Street, Queenstown, with respect to his use of VOIP equipment. After a trial on the issues, Justice Persaud not only awarded Samuels damages, but stated that “I accordingly uphold the plaintiff’s submission on this issue and find that the licence granting an exclusive right or monopoly to the defendant [GT&T] to provide telecommunications service or to control or regulate voice and data transmission on the Internet is unlawful and void.”

GT&T had responded to the July 20 ruling by Justice Persaud saying that the Commercial Court ruling by Justice Persaud is in clear violation of its lawful rights under the Telecommunications Act of 1990 and other Guyana laws. “We are further concerned that attempts to develop telecommunications policy through piecemeal court decisions are harmful to both consumers and the country. GT&T has long made it clear that we support an open and competitive telecommunications landscape. We stand ready to negotiate a thoughtful, comprehensive policy that both protects consumers and promotes further investment by GT&T in Guyana’s telecoms sector,” GT&T had said.

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