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Telecoms firms should pay more to Universal Service Fund – PM

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is of the view that the contribution made by local telecommunications service providers to the Universal Service Fund (USF) should increase.{{more}}

Local telecoms service providers currently contribute one per cent of their gross revenues to the fund, but according to the prime minister, that is not enough.

Gonsalves said that the existing Telecommunications Act of 2001, in which the USF is embedded, needs to be revised.

“It is currently being reviewed because we have been operating it now 10 years and many things have happened in telecommunications in those 10 years,” the Prime Minister explained, as he spoke at the launch of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Maritime VHF project on Tuesday, at the Coastguard Base at Calliaqua.

Of the things that needed to be changed, he said, was the extent of the contribution made by telecoms service providers to the USF.

He explained that telecoms service providers in the United States were required to contribute 15.7 per cent of their gross revenues.

“I am not saying that we will get anywhere close to that amount, because we have to take into account the vast differences and size of the market and LIME, Digicel and Karib Cable are not charitable institutions; they must make a profit,” Gonsalves explained.

“But I think most of us would concede reasonably, that one per cent is not enough and we have to address that question, although I don’t know where it would reach, but we have to address that question,” he continued.

The USF was officially launched here in May 2009 and was set up to be used by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to compensate any telecommunications provider who is required to provide Universal Service or promote Universal Service, which includes public voice telephony, Internet access and telecoms services to schools, hospitals and similar institutions and was set up under Section 42 of the Telecommunications Act of 2001.

For the Financial Year 2011, the fund received $1,246,709.84 from service providers. (DD)

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