The Jamaican government is drafting regulations to govern the operations of voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony providers in the country, while it will also be looking to collect tax revenue from VoIP operators. According to a report from local newspaper The Gleaner, Phillip Paulwell, the Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining, commented: ‘The Ministry for Finance and Planning needs to collect revenue.’ Earlier this year Jamaican telcos LIME and Digicel moved to block what they said were unlicensed over-the-top (OTT) voice services such as Viber, claiming that the VoIP providers were terminating traffic on their networks without paying fees.
The Gleaner quoted an emailed statement from Digicel which applauded the government’s move: ‘The dynamism of the telecommunications industry requires responsive policymakers. So, while we were not aware of the regulations mentioned by the Minister, we do welcome the proactive response to the issues related to VoIP calls.’ LIME’s UK-based parent company Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) has also welcomed developments, saying in a statement: ‘We have long maintained that VoIP operators have been utilising the network of telecoms providers without any commensurate compensation for this service. In doing so, they are also depriving the government of tax revenue.’
Separately, Paulwell has also commented on the creation of a new telecoms-specific regulator to combine duties which at present are carried out by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the Spectrum Management Authority and Broadcasting Commission. Legislation is being amended which will pave the way for the new watchdog. He said: Currently, we are completing the drafting instructions for a new ICT law. By the second week in January we will have, therefore, a new set of proposals ready for Cabinet.’ He went on to add: ‘There are pockets of resistance, but nothing can stop it in the long run.’