Speednet loses appeal against PUC


Saturday, June 20th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: The Court of Appeal closed its second session for 2015 today and both of Belize’s major telecommunications companies were represented in court for decisions.

Speednet Communications Limited, the parent company of Smart, filed a lawsuit against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2011 concerning fees payable for frequency authorization for its telephone service.

The PUC set a charge of $792,000 for a total of 7,925 channels charged at $100 per channel, via 14 point to point links of separate bandwidth. But Speednet argued that it should pay far less and filed suit.

Justice Oswell Legall dismissed the claim in the Supreme Court and Speednet appealed in December of 2013. Today, the panel of Justices Manuel Sosa, Samuel Awich and Minnet Hafiz-Bertram dismissed the appeal except in one respect, which will cost the Commission. Senior Counsel Fred Lumor told us that the Court partially allowed the appeal in respect of the method of payment – in advance rather than in arrears. It ordered interest of 6% for the period from May 2011 to May 2012 and allowed for the money to be set off against future fees payments by Speednet.

Lumor says the Court of Appeal helped to settle a major issue discussed in the court below – the exact meaning of the word “channel” as used in the schedule to the 2002 Telecommunications Regulations on Licensing, Classification and Fee Structure. The PUC levies fees for the number of channels used by companies to offer services, but Speednet had argued that it did not ask for a certain interpretation of channel but rather another. However the Court sided with the PUC on this issue.

The PUC won 80% of its costs in the appeal. Lumor says taxpayer money will not be used to repay Speednet. Senior Counsel Andrew. Marshalleck argued the case in both courts and colleague Liesje Chung Barrow appeared to receive the judgment on his behalf.



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