Govt attempts to delay long-distance service hearing – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Govt attempts to delay long-distance service hearing

A Telecommunications Commission hearing over the Digicel long distance service was halted yesterday, causing yet another delay in the costly legal battle involving several of the Island’s telecoms providers.

Consultant Crown counsel Maurice Cottle sought a delay at the start of yesterday’s proceedings, but the Commission said the hearing should continue.

However, Mr Cottle in the afternoon then produced a letter for the Commission. This triggered an angry response from Digicel’s lawyer Jan Woloniecki, who demanded Mr Cottle give him a copy of the letter.

Digicel CEO Wayne Caines said last night it was “simply incredible” that Crown counsel had tried to further delay the proceedings.

TeleBermuda International’s lawyer noted the “clock was ticking to the commercial detriment” of the company every day the case was delayed.

After reading the letter from Mr Cottle, Commission chairman Ronald Simmons said that Government appeared to want to expand the scope of the inquiry or terms of reference, therefore, the Commission was adjourning “until further notice” so it could consider the letter and whether to hold a further phase of the inquiry.

The Commission did, however, appear to finish hearing submissions in its inquiry into the two telecoms licences operated by Transact and Digicel.

Mr Cottle had suggested last week at a Supreme Court hearing with TBI 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 licences of as well as the telecoms licences of companies involved in the dispute.

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.

Digicel originally went to court to get CellOne to provide interconnection for the new long distance service.

Government then was joined with long distance provider TBI in objecting to Digicel’s launch of a long distance.

Digicel has insisted its long distance service is lawful and that it and sister company Transact have acted and are acting wholly within the terms of their respective licences.

The Royal Gazette was unable to obtain copies yesterday of TBI and CellOne’s submissions to the Commission, but Digicel provided their submission and the following statement.

The Commission declined to provide copies of any of the submissions.

Digicel said in a statement last night: “Digicel and Transact are contented to have received an opportunity before the Telecommunications Commission today to confirm the legality and validity of the International Long Distance Service (“ILD service”) provided by Transact.

“Counsel for Digicel and Transact engaged extensively with the members of the Commission and explained in detail how the ILD service as provided is wholly in accordance with the Telecommunications Licences operated by Digicel and Transact.

“Digicel would note that the Commission ruled that Crown counsel, Maurice Cottle, was not to be allowed to make oral submissions to the enquiry on the basis that Mr. Cottle had failed to provide written submissions to the Commission and had not adhered to the rules of the enquiry as set down by the Commission in advance.

“Digicel was also contented to note that the Commission firmly resisted efforts by Mr. Cottle to have the enquiry today further delayed or interfered with.”

Commenting further on Mr Cottle’s actions and excuse of a copier glitch for not having copies of submissions, Mr Caines said: “This is not only extremely unfair to Digicel and Transact, but to all industry players who have an interest in the matters at issue. Digicel and Transact were pleased with the manner in which the Commission dealt with these efforts to derail proceedings today and also the Commission’s resolve to see matters proceed in accordance with the rules of the enquiry. The telecoms industry and Bermuda generally deserves better than excuses about malfunctioning photocopiers in the AG’s chambers and the like.”

“Digicel has fully reserved all of its rights in respect of the letter provided to the Commission after the lunchtime adjournment by Mr Cottle in which the Minister of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure strategy apparently sought to expand the terms of reference of the Telecommunications Commission based on advices provided by Mr Cottle.

“Digicel is most concerned with the representations by Crown counsel that the expansion of the terms of reference is apparently as a result of complaints made by Digicel. This position is completely disingenuous and wholly untrue. Digicel would note the fact that the original reference to the Telecommunications Commission was provided on December 16th of last year and would question why this request to expand the Commission’s remit was made some four hours after the Commission had begun its proceedings this morning. The sequence of events is a matter of very serious concern to Digicel and Transact.

“Digicel and Transact are entirely confident that all allegations that have been levelled in respect of the ILD service will, eventually, be demonstrated to have been completely baseless and wholly without merit. Digicel and Transact are most grateful to the members of the Telecommunications Commission for their diligence and attention to the matters at issue and look forward to a fulsome vindication in due course.”

More delays: TBI boss Greg Swan (left) leaves yesterday's Telecoms Commission hearing

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Published February 07, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 07, 2012 at 8:13 am)

Govt attempts to delay long-distance service hearing

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