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High court ruling rocks the boat

25 Jul 2012

Guyanese telco Digicel Guyana has seized on a ruling from the High Court to challenge the monopoly of fixed line incumbent the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), reports Stabroek News. Last week, Guyana’s High Court ruled against GT&T in a case brought by one of its DSL subscribers. The customer had had their internet access blocked by GT&T for utilising voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, contending that the service was illegal as it circumvented GT&T’s monopoly on international telephony. The court ruled that GT&T had acted unlawfully, however, and ordered the telco to pay USD850,000 in damages to the subscriber.

Digicel has taken the decision as a ruling against GT&T’s monopoly, claiming that the court had ‘ruled that the monopoly held by GT&T to provide telecommunications service or to regulate voice and data transmission over the internet is unlawful and void.’ On those grounds, the telco announced that it was cutting the price of calls to the Caribbean, US and Canada by 62%, and calls to China and Brazil by 80%. Gregory Dean, CEO of Digicel Guyana added that ‘Digicel has been operating under a monopoly held by GT&T for the past five years and we are happy that customers will now be able to reap the benefits of a fully liberalised telecommunications sector. Reducing international callings rates is just the beginning.’ As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Digicel controls an independent international gateway, having received a temporary licence to terminate international telephony in 2007 after an outage on the Americas II cable disrupted GT&T’s service.

The incumbent has struck back, however, saying that it was concerned by an ‘attempt to develop telecommunications policy through piecemeal court decisions’, adding that it was ‘harmful to both consumers and the country.’ Further, the incumbent pointed out that it had appealed the contentious ruling, and was ‘confident that the decision will be overturned by the Court of Appeal.’

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