Gov’t working to increase landline service — Minister Hughes

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Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes

THE Ministry of Public Telecommunications is making a special effort to partner with local telephone service providers to increase the number of landline services in new housing schemes and other existing villages.
The Government has embarked on the construction of several new housing schemes, commencing with a housing expose that will allow citizens a preview of homes that new communities will be modelled after.
However, several existing communities and recently-established housing schemes are still without land phone and Internet service years after they would have been commissioned.
The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) held the monopoly in that area but was unable to adequately meet the country’s service needs.
Public Telecommunications Minister, Catherine Hughes, said that ensuring landline service for new communities is a major concern for her Ministry and efforts are being made to improve the situation.
The minister is convinced that once the telecommunication sector is fully liberalised, some relief will come in this area, especially if providers of such communication services increase.
Speaking on the early morning radio programme, “Jump Start,” the minister stated that “once there is liberalisation, what we envision is that some communities underserved and where companies like GTT decides they are not willing to go into an area for whatever reason… that there would be other players willing to provide the service.”
The minister said she is well aware of the situation since she continues to receive many letters from persons in housing areas and communities complaining that they do not have landlines.
Hughes said her Ministry is thus looking at providing a little more connectivity through the towers and infrastructure existing telecoms companies already have in place. In some instances, to provide telecoms service in a particular community, the company would have to decide whether it makes financial sense to do so, since they would have to recover their investment.
“The challenge for Guyana is connectivity,” the minister said. She pointed out that the current fibre-optic cable goes to places like Moleson Creek and Essequibo, “but we want to see it going further south to places like Lethem and some of the other hinterland remote communities”.
She reminded that a lot of money was spent on another fibre-optic cable from Brazil to Guyana. That programme initiated under the former People Progressive Party (PPP) Government failed had miserably. To the point where the new Coalition Government had to scrap the project since it would have been too costly to repair damaged material and continue the project.
Minister Hughes is interested, however, in improving partnerships with the private sector to have certain infrastructure in place.
The minister said she wants to establish greater relationships with GTT, Digicel and any other player that comes into the market.
Hughes noted that technology thrives in a rapidly changing environment and pointed out that what people in North America expect from their service providers is no different from what someone in Lethem would expect.
She said the challenge is putting things in place to provide better service to Guyanese.
“Developing relationships with companies is to help create useful infrastructure that would be the basis on which Guyana can develop and expand,” the minister said, noting that the Telecommunications Bill has been assented to by the President David Granger.