By Aaron Humes: The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in an appeal this week from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) against Speednet Communications, parent of SMART.
In 2016, the Caribbean Court of Justice in a separate case said the PUC could not charge nearly eight hundred thousand dollars in spectrum fees to use channels allocated under a 2001 plan.
Now, the P.U.C. wants to collect one point four million dollars in what it says are overdue fees for the provisional usage of the seven-hundred megahertz frequency band which it first granted in 2011. This was pending notice of re-allocation under the 2001 National Frequency Spectrum Band Allocation Plan, and the subsequent granting of a full license, which was never done.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, representing Speednet, made note that before Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana, the question was whether the PUC could collect fees without granting a license. She ruled that it wasn’t and therefore the fees cannot be collected, also granting a permanent injunction against the P.U.C. doing so.
Is the company acting unlawfully? Courtenay says no because the PUC gave permission and said they would regularize the situation later on, including publicizing and gazetting the change, which it has not. When that is done, Courtenay said, his clients would pay up.
But the PUC’s attorney, Senior Counsel Fred Lumor, contends that the company is making “excuses,” arguing that the publication is not a necessary condition for regularizing the license and that Speednet has been ‘hard-pay’ for too long.