Guyanese Taking Telecommunications Monopoly Concerns to The US Senate

USA, Columbia, Washington DC, Capitol Building

A group of concerned Guyanese are asking a subcommittee of the US Senate to look into the operations of an American owned telecommunications company that is operating in Guyana, and to determine whether the company is engaged in unlawful practices aimed at ensuring that it maintains a monopoly on the country’s telecommunications sector.
In essence, the grouping wants the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to examine whether there are enough grounds to investigate the company for indiscretions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The company in question is Atlantic Tele- Network (ATN) which owns the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) and which is the only entity that is licensed to offer landline telephone services and data in Guyana.

But Guyanese are saying that the deal might have been corrupt from its inception. They now want the US to examine the financial trail of the initial sale of the then Guyana Telecommunications Corporation (GTC), since there is widespread belief that certain improper undertakings may have had occurred to secure the deal in the first place, and that inducements are most likely still being paid by the company to maintain and stall its monopoly on the country’s telecommunications sector.

Moreover, Guyanese are contending that they are fed up of the one-man-show that is being offered up by the company, whose charges for data services are believed to be among the highest in the world.

Leading the senate campaign is Dennis Adonis, a popular Guyanese book writer who also owns two companies in the US, and is a staffer at the Washington Newsday. One of those US companies is also a major stakeholder in the Guyana Guardian, a news entity in Guyana, which has been embroiled in a standoff with the telephone company for over two years regarding the arbitrary seizure of phone lines and data services from the media house.

The businessman has attributed the seizure of the media house’s phone lines to the company’s anger over a series of negative articles that were published about GTT and two of its managers, by the Guardian, over a two year period.

Now, the “Pastor’s Wife” author, is convinced that his company is being punished for confronting the telecommunications giant.

But for him, the real problem is the draconian control that the local telecommunications company has been exerting over the country’s landline and data services, since a competing service provider would have resolved his issues in addition to that of many other Guyanese who continue to suffer under the current monopoly.

He is now a major supporter of a network of Guyanese in the US who says that they are backing a petition to the sub-committee on Commerce of the US Senate and to the SEC, to take a closer look at the company, since they are also of the view that either unlawful concessions to the powers that may be, or well-hidden underhand dealings by ATN International is being exerted to secure the monopolistic interest of its Guyana-based telecommunication enterprise, GTT.

As of Thursday, the grouping has secured the services of a DC volunteer lobbyist, who is expected to formally submit a primary complaint on their behalf to the US Securities Exchange and Commission (SEC) on Friday, followed by the copying of the same complaint to the offices of every member of the US Senate.

The SEC is also responsible for the investigation of any American-owned company that is operating abroad, and can initiate both corporate and criminal proceedings against those companies or their officials.
On the other hand, any member of the US Senate can recommend that the SEC examine a complaint against a US company that is operating abroad.

Guyana, a former British colony on the coastline of South America is still struggling to overcome the challenges of corruption, and lacks the resources to effectively regulate large American and other foreign companies who would generally adapt to the corrupt culture, which can entail offering bribery in various forms to secure their investment position.

Guyanese strongly believe that GTT through its parent company ATN International, may have been engaged in corrupt practices, during their purchasing negotiation with the then Guyana government in order to secure what is considered to be one of the worst telecommunications sale agreement in the Western Hemisphere.


Mareeg senior news editor since 2001 and he can be reached at news@mareeg.com