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Consumers to benefit as Judge upholds TSTT’s position on interconnection rates

TSTT WINS HIGH COURT ACTION FILED BY Digicel

Consumers across Trinidad and Tobago stand a fairer chance of benefitting from the liberalization of the telecommunications industry. This follows the High Court’s decision delivered today, that endorsed TSTT’s and the TATT-appointed Arbitration Panel’s position on the setting of reciprocal interconnection rates. Justice Judith Jones dismissed Digicel's claim that challenged the Arbitration Panel’s guidelines for TSTT and Digicel to develop interconnection rates.

When the Arbitration Panel was set up, it was done with the understanding that its decision would be binding on both TSTT and Digicel. When the Panel gave its ruling, Digicel reneged and, in October 2006, filed an application in the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago seeking judicial review of the decision.

According to Lisa Agard, TSTT’s Vice President Legal and Regulatory, the decision today was very important and the company was elated at the outcome. “In August 2006, the Arbitration Panel had set out a range of rates between TT$0.38 and TT$0.53 for mobile termination. This in their opinion represented a fair rate for an efficient operator in Trinidad and Tobago and was reflective of the rates proposed by TSTT.” Agard noted that if Digicel accepted this threshold, customer rates could be stable. “Instead they wanted to make TSTT pay in excess of 100% more than what they would pay TSTT in return. By extension customers would have had to pay more. That position flies in the face of TSTT’s goal to protect consumers’ interests in whatever we do.”

Agard said that the High Court’s decision today was bitter sweet. “While TSTT is pleased that the High Court upheld the Panel’s recommendation for reciprocal interconnection rates, including the mobile termination rates, it is very disappointing that almost a year after the Panel’s decision, Digicel has refused to sign an interconnection agreement with TSTT.” Agard noted that it was particularly disturbing to hear Digicel’s Executives speak of the Panel as not making a fair decision in this matter. The Panel’s decision was arrived at after an extensive hearing. Both sides had telecommunications regulatory experts from all over the world and the Panel also had the benefit of a report from an independent economic expert agreed upon by the parties and appointed by the Panel. In addition, both TSTT’s and Digicel’s cost models were submitted to the Panel. The entire process lasted about eight (8) months.

“We are happy to be able to finally put this matter behind us. TSTT is ready to sign an interconnect agreement and has been ready to do so since August last year.”