Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Telecoms infrastructure sharing rules on the horizon

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 2:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
Ansord Hewitt, director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation.

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is now working with a deadline of June for the development of infrastructure-sharing rules for telecommunication operators. The move is being made almost six years after the Government, citing an urgent need to implement such a policy, announced its intention to enact legislation to mandate the sharing of infrastructure by Jamaica's telecommunication operators.

The utilities regulator said in its annual report for 2015-16 released recently that a technical team has been undertaking additional work to address shortcomings in a report submitted by the consultant on the development of the rules.

A notice of proposed rulemaking has now been prepared and is currently undergoing internal review prior to being published for public consultation, the OUR said in emailed responses to Gleaner Business queries.

Asked what infrastructure is intended to be covered by the rules, the OUR referenced Section 29A(4) of the Telecommunications Act, which defines infrastructure sharing as "the provision to licensees of access to tangibles used in connection with a public network or intangibles facilitating the utilisation of a public network".

Under the law, intangibles include agreements, arrangements, leases, licences, franchises, rights of way, easements and other similar interest, while tangibles include lines, cables and wires; equipment and apparatus; towers, risers and masts; conduits, tunnels and ducts; manholes and other holes and pits; poles and antennae; huts and landing stations; land, building and other real property.

 

ACCESS TO INFRASTRUCTURE

 

The OUR said it can order a licensee to provide access to a tangible or intangible infrastructure for public health or for environmental, town planning or other development considerations; to deal with economic inefficiencies; or to address impractical physical or technical issues.

The rules being developed will define the nature and extent of the obligation to be imposed on telecoms to share their networks, and is part of the assessment to be done in the planned consultation.

"We are therefore not yet in a position to declare what will be covered by the rules," the regulator said.

Asked what has been causing the delay, the OUR said "project timelines were impacted by the need to reassign resources to other matters that arose during the year".

The Gleaner reported from as far back as April 2011 that the Government had proposed to enact legislation to mandate the sharing of the infrastructure by telecommunications companies.

"There are issues with multiple operators who engage in excavating the public roadways to install equipment and lay cable.

"Specifically, there is a lack of coordination between operators resulting in increased costs, traffic congestion and undue disturbance to the public," said the information and communication technology policy document tabled in Parliament at the time.

The policy spoke to the urgent need for the deployment of infrastructure nationwide to facilitate high-capacity networks with interconnection to international networks.

The Gleaner also reported that the National Works Agency, which is responsible for maintenance of the island's main roads, had been telling utility providers they would not be allowed to disturb roadways if they missed a window of opportunity to lay down their infrastructure.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com