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7655: Teleco's Deregulation a total aberration (fwd)




From: felix Augustin <felix_augustin@hotmail.com>

During the past 3 months in various provinces, the public booths (cabins 
public) pertaining to Telecommunications d'Haiti, commonly known as TELECO, 
have been subject to one of the worst aberration the industry has gone 
through.  One has witnessed the TELECO cabins, domain of the state, becoming 
the illegal property of politicians and businessmen who have no 
understanding of the telecommunication business.  In addition, these new 
private operators are neither responsive to the sensitivity nor the needs of 
the rural population who relies on the meager telephone service to maintain 
contact with the outside world.  Thus, one needs to question the issue of 
legitimacy and ethics!

To better understand the issue at its roots, one needs first to comprehend a 
bit of the Telecommunication industry that for many years have been a state 
monopoly, governed by the Central Bank of Haiti, the principal shareholder 
of TELECO, the main and only operator.  As in any normal democracy and 
following the global trend of the industry, many countries have gone from a 
state monopoly to a decentralization process.  We have then witnessed two 
major changes in the industry:  One being the deregulation aspect and the 
second being the privatization.  These two concepts should not be confused 
as both can be driven by separate legislation and rules.  In the case of 
Haiti, neither status have been defined nor approved by the legislature.  
This has left Haitians in a limbo where the industry has been floating in a 
state of suspension.  We have seen the birth and legalization of Haitel and 
Comcel cellular networks and the prohibition of the VOip (Voice Over the 
Internet) operators.

In 1997 an international forum was organized by the association of Haitian 
Engineers with the objective of assisting the government in the decision 
making process of opening up the market.  The great talent of many Haitians 
and foreign professionals were exhibited in a unified forum.  The legal, 
administrative and technical aspects where raised by the various experts and 
the acts of the forum where summarized in a very important document that was 
compiled as a result of these initiatives.

Today, we are looking at a state of pandemonium in the telecommunication 
industry in Haiti.  We saw the incumbent administration splitting the rural 
centers, serving the provinces, from the main administrative infrastructure 
of TELECO.  We see major financial and administrative changes implemented in 
the provinces that are not beneficial for the rural population.  We also saw 
TELECO personnel that have been working for years in these centers, been 
booted out of their jobs without any compensation or any respect of their 
human dignities.  We saw the TELECO centers that have been serving a 
population in dire need of services, dismantled slowly to accommodate these 
new "manager" that are driven by greed, profit and incompetence.

In these short periods of time, the chaotic results are quite obvious:

a) Total dissatisfaction of the rural population that has been served by the 
TELECO cabins due to additional fees that have been imposed of them when 
either making or receiving phone calls.

b) Recipient of phone calls that are refusing to accept calls based on the 
fact that they have to pay 1 Gourde for each minutes.  Fees are now applied 
to "collect calls" as well

c) Customers in rural areas that now have to pay for the messenger service 
that for many years was free.  In other word, if one calls someone in 
Cabaret, the recipient will be imposed a fee for being advised of the call.

d) Total frustration from the population that is already deprived and that 
is been charged for receiving international IDDD calls, already paid for by 
the caller.

e) A drop in the number of international calls destined to the various call 
centers due to these new charges.  Note that TELECO loose the international 
settlement rate associated with the termination of each call.

f) The rural exchanges are in a very precarious position where the local 
population is tempted to take thing in their own hand and simply erase these 
public cabins in their community, as they became symbol of opportunity for 
few and total regressions for the majority.

Letís take a quick review of the industry's perspective regarding the 
developing countries.   Strong communication and information system have 
been proven to be vital for any country to survive and prosper.  One highly 
effective way to achieve that is to promote and nurture the growth of small 
and entrepreneurial entities within that sector.  This can be achieved 
through an increase of teledensity that will augment the number of citizen 
that can afford communication's services.  Lower price stimulate greater 
demand when market participants have the incentive to compete vigorously to 
attract greater amount of business.  Based on the philosophy that "public 
service is a public trust", our government should adopt policies designed to 
ensure that every citizen of Haiti can have confidence in the integrity of 
government practice and decisions.  The executive and legislative branches 
should promulgate standard of ethics and conflicting financial interest 
should be prohibited.  It is clear that in this case, the perception of this 
public action is only there to serve the political party in power.  CONATEL 
the equivalent of the FCC has been silent and totally mute on the matter.

The notion of regulatory independence encompasses 3 major concepts that have 
been violated in this case.  The separation of regulatory and operational 
function, freedom from political pressure and Fair and transparent 
procedures.

Once more, Haitian leaders have proved themselves to be patatist that 
strives on GREED and INCOMPETENCE.  Taking a business that once was 
flourishing and rising, they are still doing their utmost effort to drive it 
to the ground while leaving the population in the Dark Age and depriving 
them of some basic necessity.

This last initiative is a clear example of the leadership that is running 
this country.  The lack of vision of Haitian politician drives clear 
conflict of interest that is designed to promote bribery and unfair 
practice.  This new policy is acting as a deterrent for generating telephone 
calls and reducing traffic growth while slowing down economic development.  
In this era of the Internet, Multimedia and other enhanced services, plain 
old telephone (POTS) is still not accessible to 80% of the population.

May be it is time by Haitian leaders to start understanding the fundamental 
of telecommunication and to use the talent and competency that is alive in 
the Diaspora.  Let's suggest that they review to acts of "Haiti TELECOm 97" 
that was produced by some of our brilliant professionals.  Let consult with 
some of our experts that are available to assist the country while 
generating constructive dreams for a NEW HAITI where deregulation and 
privatization can be achieved properly without involving the political 
machine.



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