23rd Feb 2013

Source: Guyana Chronicle

The Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GT&T) has lost its request to stay the enforcement of a High Court Order which had directed the company to pay entrepreneur James Samuels $1,000,000 in damages, and declaring GT&T to be an unlawful monopoly. According to a press release received yesterday from International Attorney Dave Kissoon of Cozen O’Connor, GT&T has lost its request to stay the enforcement of the order of Justice Rishi Persaud, pending appeal.

Justice B.S. Roy, rendering a decision yesterday, February 22, 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.

Mr. Samuels, who was previously represented by Charles Ramson, S.C., is currently represented by Attorneys-at-law, Mr. Parmanand Mohanlall and International Attorney, Dave Kissoon of Cozen O’Connor with Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick, S.C., with Mr. Timothy Jonas, is representing GT&T.

The release stated further that 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 Telecommunications 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 USA. Vonage, according to the release, enables a subscriber to send and receive voice communication electronically over the internet by use of a personal computer.

The release said that 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 Samuels’s internet access, thereby disrupting the DSL service which was provided to him.
GT&T 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 these proceedings 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,” the release concluded.

When asked for comment, Samuels stated, “It is unfortunate that GT&T continues to expend time and resources on a position that I and the courts believe to be clearly without merit. Guyana’s telecommunications sector must be immediately liberalised and I will continue to fight for the good of my fellow citizens.”

According to the release, GT&T has indicated that they intend to approach the Full Court to revisit the issue of a stay.

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