Telecom framework still in the works, BSCC coming online

  01 Dec 2017

By: L.N. Reklai

November 30, 2017 (Koror, Palau) Belau Submarine Fiber Optic Cable is going live this December 7th, and Olbiil Era Kelulau is still to adopt a telecommunications framework that will serve as rule book for telecommunication players in this new era of telecommunications for Palau. [restrict]

The bill was submitted by the Office of the President to Olbiil Era Kelulau in May of this year.  It seeks to “liberalize” the telecom market by “creating a level playing field for market participants”, increase public and private investment in the telecom sector and adopt policies “to encourage growth and ensure improvements in access to and affordability of telecom service”.

In his transmittal letter, President Remengesau states that the bill will replace the “out-of-date” telecom laws and regulations and “spur continued growth in the Republic’s private and public sectors.”

Since then, the bill has undergone extensive changes.  Most notably, the proposal for an independent regulator is replaced by a Director of Bureau. Both House and Senate versions agree to remove an independent regulator, separate Division of Communications under MPIIC to a Bureau of Communications, calling it a “semi-independent” body.

Director of the new bureau will be the regulator of the telecom industry, responsible for regulations and management of the industry.

Minister Charles Obichang of MPIIC, who currently has the regulatory authority over telecommunications, stated that although bill “cannot be faulted for its emphasis on expertise”, most of the responses he received have expressed that the “regulatory system must be tailored to the realities of Palau.”

House version which passed 3rd reading on November 15th extensively amended the original bill, cutting it down from 103 pages to 45 pages. Senate bill which passed 1st reading has 92 pages and may be reduced further after the next two readings.

Both House and Senate versions agree on having a Director of Bureau and establishing Universal Access Policy. One major difference is that House version exempts PNCC from taxes whereas Senate seeks to have PNCC pay taxes like other providers.

The proposed law is a comprehensive regulatory framework addressing all aspects of telecommunications industry from licensing to interconnection to universal access. [/restrict]