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Telecoms industry needs specialist regulator, says Paulwell

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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KINGSTON Eastern Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell says it is now time for the Government to establish a specialist regulator for the telecommunications industry.

“We have been arguing for many years about the nature of this business and why there is need for a specialist regulator...It's a peculiar infrastructure that requires specific attention and expertise in your regulatory body. It's not a criticism of the OUR [Office of Utilities Regulation], [but] we believe it is time for you to have a specialist regulator,” he stated, pointing out that such a regulator would be able to address inefficiencies in the market that are now impacting service to customers of the two major telecoms companies.

The Opposition spokesman on mining and energy was responding to a statement by Minister of Energy, Science and Technology Fayval Williams in the House of Representatives yesterday, in which she raised concerns that the country's telecoms providers have not invested sufficiently in infrastructure in keeping with the mushrooming demand for bandwidth.

In March 2012, Paulwell, who was minister in charge of the telecommunications sector at the time, gave the undertaking that a single regulator for the industry would be set up by merging the functions of the OUR, the Spectrum Management Authority and Broadcasting Commission.

On Friday the OUR said, following persistent quality of service issues, it instructed telecoms firms Digicel and Flow to immediately provide their customers with service-interruption notifications and updates on service restoration times.

Customers have complained about data and voice service interruption, including dropped calls, calls not being initiated and delays in contacting customer service, as well as inadequate redress.

The OUR said that both companies admitted that the rapid rise in the demand and use of data, which requires constant adjustments, has hampered their service delivery.

“They also conceded that they have not been sharp and clear in their customer communication and education. Both have committed to providing their customers and the OUR with service-interruption notifications and updates on service restoration through their various communications channels,” the regulator said in a press release.

At the same time, Paulwell also urged the Government to open up the telecommunications market by providing incentives for companies to invest in the industry.

“The way to get competition is to promote competition — make the cost of entry less and encourage investors. Right now, the Jamaican marketplace is well suited for competition in this area. I think it is time that the Government provides greater incentive for companies, he said, adding that existing companies, such as cable operators, can become telecommunications providers but many of them are fragmented and the initial entry cost is prohibitive.

He pointed out that the business process outsourcing sector is one example of an industry which now requires more bandwidth, but that it is now provided by only one player.


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