Guyana’s long-delayed Telecommunications Bill is due to be presented to the National Assembly by the end of May this year, following months of consultations with mobile operators Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) and Digicel Guyana, Demerara Waves writes. The full contents of the current iteration of the bill have not been made public, although the government has confirmed that it will address the expansion of mobile coverage into rural areas. Previous versions of the bill have also looked to strengthen the powers of sector regulator the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), open the telecommunications markets to new players and end GTT’s monopoly on fixed telephony and international voice and data transmission. Earlier this year, however, Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes explained that the government was ensuring that industry stakeholders are satisfied with the legislation before it is presented to parliament. Given GTT’s history of fiercely defending its monopoly rights, it seems unlikely that the operator would approve measures that would end its exclusivity. Indeed, it was threats of legal action from GTT’s parent company over the termination of its monopoly rights that led the government to increase the involvement of GTT and Digicel in the drafting of the bill.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the Telecommunications Bill has been in development since 2011 but has been derailed by several legal challenges, whilst changes of government and political turmoil have pushed the reforms back further still. The prolonged delays in implementing the much-needed reforms has halted Guyanese regulators from issuing new licences, meaning that the country is one of the fewer than ten nations that still do not have access to 3G or 4G technologies. Others on that list include Tuvalu, Eritrea, Palestinian Territory, Cuba (a 3G platform is available, but only to roaming visitors), St Pierre & Miquelon and Wallis & Fortuna.