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Telecoms Regulatory Authority to be launched next week

The new Regulatory Authority (RA) that will oversee Bermuda’s telecommunications industry will be launched next Monday, Government announced yesterday.

The RA is part of the Government’s plan to liberalise regulation the industry, bringing down the current licensing regime that restricts the services that telecoms firms can offer. The plans have been five years in coming to fruition.

John Cunningham, Carlyle Musson and Kent Stewart will serve as the three Commissioners of the RA and will appoint Philip Micallef as chief executive when they hold their first meeting next Monday, January 28.

Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, announced next week’s launch of the RA.

He said: “Opening Bermuda’s telecommunications sector to greater competition under a modern regulatory framework is of vital importance to consumers, businesses and the growth of our economy.

“The reforms that are underway are designed to bring new products and innovative services at competitive prices to Bermuda. We believe it will also result in new investment and job creation.”

The new Regulatory Authority, which has taken more than five years to bring to fruition, is based on two pieces of legislation, the Electronic Communications Act 2011 (ECA) and the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 (RAA) that were passed in the House of Assembly in 2011.

These Acts will now be brought into further effect by regulations gazetted on January 25, 2013 and will mark the beginning of another stage in the deregulation of the telecommunications sector that began in June 1995 with the introduction of competition in the Bermuda market.

Eliminating separate classes for licensing will create a single standard licence, called the Integrated Communications Operator Licence (ICOL) allowing holders to offer a range of telecommunications services under one company and from a single or multiple platforms.

“In essence, the Regulatory Authority will be the entity that will assume all regulatory responsibilities for the industry which will allow the Department of Telecommunications to concentrate its focus on telecommunications policy,” said Dr Gibbons.

“This will bring the regulation into a politically neutral and independent body and we will have a modern regulator to keep pace with the speed of technological advancement.”

The intention, over the first full fiscal year, is that the fee burden to the industry will be cost neutral. This simply means that the fees the industry should have been paying all along to the Government will continue to be paid and, in the first year of the RA, these fees will be split between the Government and the RA. Over time the RA will become fully self-sufficient.

The Regulatory Authority Act will allow for an independent regulator to regulate multiple sectors of the telecommunications industry, while the Electronic Communications Act will introduce a new type of telecommunications licence.

Existing legislation in place prior to the introduction of the 2011 Acts restricted telecommunications licensees from offering multiple telecommunications services on a single service platform.

In its statement, Government said this practice was restrictive to Bermuda’s development as the international telecommunications industry develops.

The reforms passed into law in 2011 had two major components, the separation of policy making from implementation and enforcement, and the removal of a segmented and outdated licensing structure which allowed carriers and operators to provide only the telecommunications service (mobile phones, internet, long distance, etc) for which they were specifically licensed to provide.

Dr Gibbons said it was imperative to get the RA up and running as soon as possible to end the long period of uncertainty surrounding telecommunications reform.

Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons

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Published January 25, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 24, 2013 at 7:44 pm)

Telecoms Regulatory Authority to be launched next week

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