Power struggle over who controls telcos

Saturday October 26, 2019 Written by Published in Technology

Government is preparing to open the doors to new competitors to take on Bluesky in the phone and internet market – and to oversee that, it’s announced plans for an independent regulatory authority.

The regulator is expected to be in place by February, to oversee pricing, access to infrastructure and more. It comes as the Telecommunications Bill aims to provide affordable and quality service to people throughout the Cook Islands.

The head of the authority is to be recommended by an evaluation panel comprising Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas, Financial Secretary Garth Henderson and Solicitor-General Stuart Baker. Cabinet will confirm the appointment.

Government is a major player in the telecommunications industry, owning the cable operator Avaroa Cable Limited and 40 per cent of shares in Bluesky.

Government chief economist Ian Hayes assured business representatives the regulator would be independent. The panel would look for someone with vast knowledge in the industry to lead the authority, he said.

But Chamber of Commerce president Fletcher Melvin said the regulator’s independence was their biggest concern – and that meant zero favouritism.

*Read more: Editorial: Independent – of whom?

The Chamber wanted a private sector representative on the panel to choose the regulator.

Demos leader Tina Browne said those on the evaluation committee were government-appointed and “so will take instructions from government”.

Orama Ltd, which wants to enter the market, said those in the industry should be part of the panel. Owner William Framhein also questioned Thomas.and Henderson’s qualifications.

“Apart from the Solicitor-General who is on the panel from the legal point of view, I don’t think the other two are qualified in terms of the knowledge of the industry to make a proper decision,” Framhein said.

“I think the recommendation on the regulator should come from Orama, Bluesky and Avaroa Cable Limited and those who are part of the industry.”

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