PUC gives go ahead to increase landline rates; GTT “must” improve service

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Three years after the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company made an application to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to increase its landline rates, it has been given the go-ahead to do so.

According to the PUC, the “temporary rates” will take effect from August 01, 2017, and will be subjected to the Company improving its services and expanding its reach.

“GTT must complete the end to end provisioning of the FTTX Phase 1 in La Grange, and to commence the commercial launch of services in the areas which they have identified,” the PUC stipulated.

The Telecoms service provider must further submit a quarterly detailed appraisal of progress showing the number of new services rolled out, inclusive of rural areas.

“This should not be less than1000 lines per quarter; which may include up to 25% re-issue lines.”

It was highlighted that GTT has been tardy in their response time and remedial actions with respect to fault reporting.

To this end, the Commission requests a quarterly report from the date the rates take effect showing details of the average time taken to resolve consumers’ complaints -residential and business.

It must also “determine a daily compensatory credit for consumers which will be contingent on its failure to comply.”

The Company must demonstrate that there is an urgent and genuine effort to provide services to outstanding applicants and such installation must be executed in an orderly and systematic manner.

Failure to meet the standards set out will see the rates once again being lowered.

The PUC promised to monitor the services continuously to ensure that the company improves the quality of service offered to the public.

Additional rate changes including international calls can be found here.

GTT had in July 2014 submitted an application for a variation of rates, to wit, certain increases in the Landline Services, a reduction in outbound rates, and a change of methodology in the manner in which some services are billed. The application was based, essentially, on a claim that they were not earning a 15% rate of return on capital dedicated to public use.

After a hearing, the Commission dismissed the application and refused to order any increases.

GTT appealed that Order and the matter was referred to the Court of Appeal for final adjudication. Later, however, in terms of Section 77 of the PUC Act No. 10 of l999 the company filed an application for the Commission to review the Order. They withdrew the appeal, and the Commission granted leave for a review of the application.

GTT, at the original hearing and in these review proceedings relied mainly on a plea that they were not receiving a 15%, return on capital dedicated to public use and based on a “guarantee” in terms of the agreement signed by their principal ATN of the USA and the Government of Guyana. They, however, are aware of the fact that the agreement allows them only an entitlement of 15%.

Figures submitted have shown that over the years GTT was earning in excess of 20%, but with the arrival of Digicel in 2007, their income began to reduce. Digicel is involved in the cellular services and currently has a mobile market share greater than GTT since they have attracted very many of GTT’s consumers. GTT sought to explain that the loss of market share has resulted in insufficient sums to adequately deal with the landline service.

They have very importantly conceded that they are in default with their license obligations but require assistance to level the playing field to expand their services. “It would appear that enough was not done by the Company to retain the position of strength and to try to expand their consumer base. They were complacent with their monopoly and now faced with competition and with the coming of new regulations they recognise that they are likely to fall further behind,” the PUC said.

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