The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Wednesday restored Grameenphone and Robi’s bandwidth it had blocked to realise unpaid audit claims.
‘We have decided to restore bandwidth capacity of GP and Robi, taking into cognizance the sufferings of the users,’ said BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque in a press briefing at its office in Dhaka.
The commission made the decision following instruction from the prime minister’s ICT affairs adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy at a meeting at the telecommunication ministry on Tuesday.
After the announcement of Jahurul, the commission on Wednesday issued two separate letters to the International Internet Gateways asking them to release the bandwidth of GP and Robi.
BTRC on July 4 reduced internet bandwidth capacity of GP by 30 per cent over Tk 12,579.95 crore unpaid audit claim and Robi by 15 per cent over Tk 867 crore audit claim.
At the briefing, the BTRC chairman, however, said that the commission would stop issuing NOCs [no objection certificate] to GP and Robi soon as part of the regulator’s move to realise the audit claim.
Mobile operators were supposed to take NOCs from the commission for launching new package, setting up new towers and to import equipment for tower maintenance.
‘The ICT affairs adviser instructed us to take measures to realise the unpaid audit claims from the operator as per the telecom act,’ he said, adding that the commission would continue to put pressure on the operators to realise the audit claim.
‘We might take tougher measures like appointment of administrator to the mobile operators if they refrain from paying the government money,’ he said.
Speaking about the operator’s demand for settling the audit claims under arbitration, the BTRC chairman iterated that there was no such scope in the telecom law.
Even the commission has no jurisdiction to lower the government’s demand, Jahurul said.
Asked about the VAT dispute between BTRC with the operators, he said that the issue has already been settled as the National Board of Revenue would register BTRC for VAT collection in a week.
Before the issuance of VAT registration to BTRC, the operators would pay dues without VAT to the commission, said Jahurul, adding that the operators had agreed to clear the VAT amount once the BTRC gets the VAT registration.
In reply to another question on the progress of imposing condition on GP under the significant market power regulations, he said that it would also be implemented gradually.
About the latest BTRC moves, Robi Axiata Ltd chief corporate and regulatory officer Shahed Alam in a statement on Wednesday evening said, ‘Stopping the issuance of No Objection Certificate (NOC) as a replacement for the reduction of bandwidth will only increase the sufferings for the customers.’
He said that stopping NOC would lead to seizure on ongoing investment. ‘As a result, network expansion, and all other planned activities to improve the quality of service will also come to a halt,’ he said.
He said that they strongly believed that rather than applying ‘undue pressure’ to collect the ‘flawed claim amount’ the dispute should be resolved through arbitration as Arbitration Act 2001 was applicable for resolving any disputes within the country.
GP in a statement said that it was grateful for the BTRC decision related to internet bandwidth. ‘We maintain that the best way to resolve our differences is through dialogue and arbitration,’ it said.
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