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Mar 2, 2018

Speednet defies P.U.C. on license fees

In 2016, the Caribbean Court of Justice ended months of impasse when it ruled that the Public Utilities Commission could not charge excessive spectrum fees to Speednet Communications, parent company of Smart, totaling three million dollars in as many years. Speednet had previously lost in the lower courts. Now, the P.U.C. wants to collect some one point four-four million dollars in what it says are overdue fees for the provisional usage of the seven-hundred megahertz frequency band which it first granted in 2011. This was pending notice of re-allocation under the 2001 National Frequency Spectrum Band Allocation Plan, and the subsequent granting of a full license, which was never done. But the Supreme Court said that the P.U.C. put the cart before the horse, and now it cannot claim the fees even if it does the formal re-allocation and grants the license. Attorney for Speednet Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay told News Five that it’s a sharp rap on the knuckles for the regulator, which he says has too frequently abused its power with licensees.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Speednet

Eamon Courtenay

“When the C.C.J. gave its judgment in favor of Speednet for seven hundred and ninety-two thousand, Speednet wrote to the P.U.C. and said pay up. Lo and behold, the P.U.C. digs through its files, and said wait a minute. Going all the way back to 2011, when we gave you provisional approval, we are now going to charge you license fees for all of those years, even though one, they did not re-assign the spectrum; two, they did not issue a license to Speednet to use the spectrum, and the law does not allow you to charge license fees unless you

issue a license. Today, Madam Justice Arana totally agreed with Speednet and said that judgment is given in favour of Speednet; the fees are not due, and most importantly, she granted a permanent injunction against the P.U.C., barring the P.U.C. from demanding these fees from Speednet. The point of the matter is as she said: P.U.C., get your house in order before you make these types of demands. You are suggesting that what the P.U.C. could do, is re-assign the frequency.”

 

Aaron Humes

“In other words, do their job, basically.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Do their job, but now we have a problem: can you go and collect this retroactively from someone who at the time when they were using it, you had not done your work? So, my point is very simple: we specifically said to the judge, we want an injunction to stop them from doing exactly that. The judge has granted that injunction, so the only way they can demand these fees from Speednet, is if they appeal this, and if they were to win in the Court of Appeal. I will not predict whether or not they would appeal, nor would I predict whether or not they would win if they would appeal. All I will say is that the P.U.C. has a dismal track record of going to court and losing. They refuse to do what they should do in order to make demands from people operating across the regulated utilities – they simply abuse their power every time. And the courts keep saying it to them, but they are pig-headed. They believe that they can operate above the law, and they cannot.”

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