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Government to expand terms of inquiry

Consultant Crown counsel Maurice Cottle told a Supreme Court hearing yesterday that the Minister would be writing to the Telecommunications Commission to expand the terms of reference to include consideration of issues relating to the 114B licence such as interconnection. TBI’s legal action over Digicel offering long distance had been adjourned to yesterday pending consideration of the dispute by the Commission. A decision had been expected in early February, however, that now appears unlikely especially in light of Mr Cottle’s announcement that Government was widening the Commission’s terms. TBI has launched judicial review proceedings against the Business Development and Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert and the Registrar of Companies after Digicel relaunched the controversial long distance service last month. In a statement after Digicel relaunched long distance, Government had said: “Following Digicel/Transact’s announcement that, effective immediately, it has resumed offering, selling, and marketing its International Long Distance (ILD) via Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service, the Government would like to state that it intends to refer the matter of whether this service is in compliance with the terms of the licences provided to Telecommunication (Bermuda and West Indies) Ltd (TBWL) and Transact Ltd to the Telecommunications Commission, pursuant to Section 16 of the Telecommunications Act 1986.” The Commission is made up of Chairman Ronald Simmons, and members as Angela Berry, Tulani Bulford, Ricardo Campbell, John Cunningham, Dion E Smith, Ronald Stan, D Kent Stewart, and John Johnson. It is Government’s position that Digicel sister company and ISP Transact has been carrying on business in breach of the conditions placed on its 114 B licence. A Government affidavit has stated that therefore, in its opinion “Transact has no right at all, whether under section 22 of the Telecommunications Act 1986 or otherwise, to require other carriers to provide them with any interconnection at all ...” However, Digicel has insisted that it’s acting legally and with Government’s blessing.

Delay: A decision in the controversy over Digicel offering long distance service may not occur early this month as expected.