We welcome the timely move by the prime minister’s ICT affairs advisor who stepped in to ward off a potentially volatile standoff between the telecom regulatory authority (BRTA) and two of the largest telecom operators, Grameenphone and Robi. The issue of the two telecom operators owing the BRTA Tk 13,446 crore was based on audits, the amount hotly disputed by the two companies, which landed the whole thing in court.
As for appointing administrators in Robi and Grameenphone, one wonders whether differences on an audit report can be ground enough for the government to resort to such a drastic measure. Naturally, the move caused a ripple effect on the country’s biggest bourse, the Dhaka Stock Exchange, and posed a potential damage to the country’s image of a foreign-investment friendly destination.
A number of options are being mulled. First is the formation of a committee to review the audit reports on how much is owed by the operators to the government. It has been suggested that representatives from the said companies, the NBR and BRTA would be part of the process and that the two would submit a “deposit”, in advance, which would be adjusted after the re-evaluation of the audit.
What is of import is that the government has opined for an out-of-court settlement. Indeed, the two telecom operators had been asking for arbitration when the issue of paying dues first emerged and had cooler heads prevailed then, much of the embarrassment being faced by the regulator and ministry now could have been avoided. At the end of the day, it is the millions of customers who have had to pay the price for a needless tug-of-war between the regulator and operators that saw bandwidth cuts, which adversely affected call and internet quality for a period of time. And it is for their sake, we hope, that an amicable settlement will be reached sooner than later.