CCJ rules in favour of private telecom company in Belize

Friday, December 09, 2016

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday ruled in favour of the private telecommunications services provider, Speednet Communications Limited, reversing a Belize Court of Appeal ruling that had favoured the regulator, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).


The four-member panel of judges ruled that Speednet Communications Limited had proved its case and ordered the PUC to refund the BZ$792,000, less the lawful licence fee of BZ$1,400.


The dispute between the parties arose out of a difference in interpretation of the relevant regulations which set out the licence fees of BZ$100 per ‘channel’.


According to the PUC, the term ‘channel’ referred to ‘voice’ channel while Speednet Communications argued that it meant ‘radio frequency’ channel, which would mean that BZ$1,400 would be the appropriate fee.


In a decision acknowledged by the Court to have "potentially significant implications for the telecommunications industry and the wider economy", the CCJ rejected the view of the trial judge and the Court of Appeal in Belize and found that the term ‘channel’ could refer to either ‘voice’ channel or ‘radio frequency’ channel.


The CCJ ruled that the PUC, as the author of the regulations, should bear the consequences of the ambiguity and would therefore be entitled to only charge BZ$100 per ‘radio frequency’ channel.


The Trinidad-based CCJ, which is Belize’s final court, noted that while this finding was not necessarily the technologically correct definition of the word ‘channel’, which could not be determined on the basis of the evidence before the court, it was the most appropriate meaning based on the application of legal principles to the wording in the regulations.

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