Telecom regulator BRTC rules out arbitration with GP, Robi

Dhaka, July 07 – Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) yesterday ruled out any possibility of arbitration under the existing law over its recent action taken against the top two telecom operators of the country.
BTRC Chairman Jahrul Haque said as per the Telecom Act, there is no scope of arbitration.
Three days ago on Thursday, the telecom regulator partially blocked the bandwidth capacity of Grameenphone (GP) and Robi for non-payment of dues detected in audits. Experts concerned with the telecom sector termed this as an unprecedented and drastic step which ultimately hurts the 12.25 crore subscribers of the two operators.
According to the BTRC’s audit claim, GP has Tk 12,579.95 crore pending and Robi Tk 867.24 crore. BTRC asked to reduce the GPs bandwidth capacity by 30 percent and Robi’s bandwidth capacity by 15 percent.
Immediately after the BTRC’s move, GP had served a Notice of Arbitration to the BTRC inviting the regulator to a constructive arbitration process to resolve the disputed audit claim.
Failing to get any positive reply, GP yesterday at a press conference voiced their concerns and protested against the BTRC directive to the IIG operators in Bangladesh to reduce their international internet bandwidth to Grameenphone by 30 percent.
Speaking at the press conference held at a city hotel, GP CEO Michael Foley said “The directive adds a burden to Bangledeshi people and businesses. We request BTRC to withdraw the referenced directives and cooperate in resolving the disputed audit demand through a constructive arbitration process under the Arbitration Act 2001.”
GP has been continuously reiterating that a constructive relationship with the regulator based on common visions and goals is required to realize the Digital Bangladesh ambition. There is a need for clear guidelines and a framework that is fair, transparent and adheres to the laws of Bangladesh, he added.
Pointing out that Grameenphone is a compliant company, Michael Foley highlighted that GP has been the largest corporate taxpayer in the country since 2015.
While the directive is not addressed to Grameenphone, BTRC has publicly stated that the bandwidth capacity will remain blocked until Grameenphone pay a disputed audit demand.
The BTRC directive is therefore specially designed to put pressure on the operator by negatively impacting customer experience on the operator’s network. The directive would also have a negative consequence for local business communities and for the affected IIGs as they would lose potential revenue and business opportunities for a situation totally outside their control— said Grameenphone officials.
The operator asserted that it was very unfortunate that directives to the IIG operators were given in an attempt by the regulator to pressure GP to pay a disputed audit claim. The telecom operator believes that this move is illegal, and the company will seek intervention of the Court against this unconscionable decision of the regulator.
Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed told The Independent that arbitration is a good way of solving dispute in the telecom sector. “Telecom regulators across the world follow the method of arbitration,” he said.
Talking with The Independent, telecom expert TIM Nurul Kabir said as a telecom regulator, BTRC has the capability to create roadblock for the telecom operator if they don’t comply with BTRC directive.
“But reducing bandwidth means it hurts the services of the telecom operators which ultimately hurt the subscribers. The BTRC should find other ways to settle the issues instead of reducing bandwidth,” he said. – Staff Reporter