The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Bill was passed following its examination clause by clause in the Committee of Supply in the National Assembly on the evening of Monday, July 18, 2016. This Bill replaces the Public Utilities Commission Act to cater for changes resulting from the passage of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill, prior to this in the National Assembly on the same evening.
Briefing the members of the National Assembly on the Bill and its intended purpose, Public (Amendment) Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes explained that, “under this Bill, the PUC will continue to function as the economic regulator of the telecommunications sector, with responsibility for ensuring a competitive environment, seamless interconnection and access between and among telecommunications networks, and price regulation only where required to protect consumers and competition, with the expectation of greater choice, better service quality and lower prices for consumers.”
Minister Hughes who piloted the Bill in the House further stated that, the Bill achieves harmonisation with the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill without disturbing existing harmonisation with the Electricity Sector Reform Act and any other laws governing “public utilities” under the PUC’s jurisdiction.
Originally, the provisions that are required to complement the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill were prepared as yet another amending Bill to the PUC Act. Hughes explained that the government believes that it would be cumbersome for persons having to read the PUC Act to have to refer to the Principal PUC 1999 Act along with three Amending Bills.
“As such it was decided to prepare a consolidated PUC Bill that incorporates the PUC Amendment Acts of 2003 and 2010 and the new provisions relating to the telecommunications sector into the Principal PUC 1999 Act, thus creating the new consolidated PUC Bill that is now before this House for debate and passage into law.”
Minister Hughes told the House that the Bill is sound and reflects international best practices – the new telecommunications sector related provisions in the Bill along with the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill will clearly set the environment for bringing Guyana to a new exciting frontier, one of full effective participation into the global information age, and one that sets the country ready to significantly close the digital divide within Guyana and between Guyana and the developed world.
Several speakers of the opposition who spoke during the debate on the Bill had called for the Bill to be spent to a special select committee of the Parliament but the Government argued that there was no need to hold up the Bill any longer as this Bill complements the Telecoms (Amendment) Bill which was already passed.
“Mister Speaker and Honourable Members, I urge the passing of this Bill that is designed to complement the Telecommunications Bill 2016 so that we have an effective and efficiently regulated competitive telecommunications sector in Guyana,” Hughes concluded.
The Bill was subsequently passed after a vigorous debate with the Parliamentary Opposition.