Senate Passes Bill to Indemnify Spectrum Management Authority
The Bill seeks to, among other things, validate and indemnify the actions of the Spectrum Management Authority in increasing regulatory fees without legislative authority for the period April 1 2004 to March 22, 2017. The Telecommunications (Spectrum Regulatory Fees) (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2018 was passed during the sitting of the Senate on Friday (September 21). Story Highlights The Telecommunications (Spectrum Regulatory Fees) (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2018 was passed during the sitting of the Senate on Friday (September 21).The Bill seeks to, among other things, validate and indemnify the actions of the Spectrum Management Authority in increasing regulatory fees without legislative authority for the period April 1 2004 to March 22, 2017.Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, who piloted the Bill, explained that the formula designed to calculate the regulatory fees did not include a mechanism for annual increase.“So, to address this issue, and after consultation with the telecommunications operators who were affected, the Authority increased the annual operating budget consistent with the level of inflation as determined by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) for the previous year. They continued this action from 2004 to 2017 when new regulations were promulgated to give legislative authority to this mechanism,” she said.The Minister noted that when the new regulations were passed last year, they corrected the decision in respect of the provision for annual increase.Senator Johnson Smith said the telecommunications operators, who were affected by the increased fees, concurred with the move “but the fact is that between 2004 and 2017, the increase was done without legislative authority”.She explained that clause three of the Bill provides for the validation of the actions taken by the Authority specifically declaring that the calculation and collection of spectrum regulatory fees from April 1, 2004 to the March 22, 2017 were properly and lawfully made and done.The clause also frees, acquits, discharges and indemnifies anyone who is liable to be proceeded against from liability.Senator Johnson Smith said the Bill also provides that unpaid regulatory fees validated by the Bill remain due and payable “although, to the best of the Authority’s assessment, there are no such funds outstanding”.The Spectrum Management Authority is the regulator with responsibility for managing radio frequency spectrum.In keeping with the provisions of the Telecommunications Act, and specifically Section 26, spectrum users are required to pay regulatory fees to cover their reasonable operating costs incurred by the Authority in the exercise of its functions.