Fiji’s interim Minister for Commerce, Industry, Investment and Communications Taito Waradi confirmed today that the country’s telecommunications sector is now fully deregulated. In a statement, the minister said the new Telecommunications Bill, which is designed to provide for the deregulation of the monopolised sector, was adopted via a cabinet decision on Tuesday. Online news journal Fijilive quotes Waradi as saying ‘The 1989 decree is now repealed. This new bill now replaces [the old one] which for the last 18 years locked us into exclusivity. We are now operating in a deregulated environment. There is no [longer a telecoms] monopoly in Fiji.’ The new Act 79 becomes effective immediately, the minister added, with the first aim being to create the Telecom Board Authority of Fiji to implement the act and regulate the industry.
One of the stumbling blocks has been the subject of compensation for operators losing their monopoly status in the market. Here, Waradi says section 80 of the Act deals with the removal of exclusivity and will be implemented at a later date. Mediation talks with the telecom operators involved are due to start next week. ‘As the promulgation of the Bill will effectively end the currency of the exclusive privileges granted to Telecom Fiji and Fiji International Telecommunications (FINTEL), an agreement has been reached between Government and the industry to enter into negotiations on the seven years remaining of the exclusivity licence,’ the minister said. Speaking for the two operators, parent company Amalgamated Telecom Holdings said it was unaware of the new law entering into force, but would study the minister’s statement with interest.