There is no debate that the laws governing the telecom/ICT sector in Sri Lanka are among the most convoluted. So I have some sympathy for the people who write about it. But I assume they are paid for their work and they have a duty to check their facts. The excerpt below is just one example of the erroneous analysis that is published in documents with international circulation, and then get quoted and reified as the truth about Sri Lanka: Under a constitutional amendment forced through by the Rajapaksa regime and ratified in 2011—which also removed presidential term limits—the president was able to appoint the heads and members of all commissions, subverting legislative guarantees for the independence of the TRC and other statutory institutions. In April 2015, President Sirisena and his interim government were able to undo this stranglehold on democratic processes by introducing and ratifying the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which empowered independent commissions in the country and restored term limits to the presidency.
It has been an unfortunate fact that Sri Lanka and India have signed many agreements that have not been implemented. This caused me to write a column some years back entitled “An MOU to implement MOUs.”. The one difference that I see in the short LBO report on cooperation between India and Sri Lanka on telecom is that the word MOU has been replaced by agreement. But I hope I am wrong and that there will be real implementation.
For several years, the Telecom Regulatory Commission has been the biggest contributor to government revenues. It continues to be biggest in 2011, though it has come down considerably in 2011 from the massive yield in 2010, according to the 2012 Fiscal Management Report. In 2010, TRC contributed LKR 13,800 million, 44% of total revenues from government enterprises. In contrast, all the state banks combined contributed LKR 5,315 million, 17% of the total. The Port (26th largest container port in the world) yielded nothing, zero.
In early April, Nirmita Narasimhan, Program Manager on accessibility at the Center for Internet and Society based in Bangalore, visited Sri Lanka at LIRNEasia’s invitation. Below is an excerpt from her reflections on the visit and her interactions with the Telecom Regulatory Commission, the ICT Agency and the Jinasena Trust: Why is there such a communication gap between persons with disabilities and the policy makers? Even in India, we come across projects where the government of India is spending precious funds developing technology which they feel is required for the blind, while the blind in fact are already using more advanced technology. For instance, there is a project of the government to develop a special browser for the blind, when the blind and visually impaired are already navigating the internet using screen readers like Jaws and NVDA. My meetings with the regulator and other agencies confirmed for me that persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka and India are facing similar problems.
The trigger for this post was a call from an outlying area in Sri Lanka. A concerned citizen had got hold of my number and wanted my advice on the effects of cell towers an an observed increase in lightning strikes in his area. I told him that people tend to associate new things like cell towers with increases in lightning strikes, without factoring in the possibilities that (a) there was really no change in lightning strikes, there just appeared to be an increase; and (b) other factors may have changed, including the houses that were being hit by lightning. I said that I could not agree to explanations that went counter to basic physics, namely that high objects such as cell towers would not attract lighting and would instead cause lighting to hit objects that were lower in elevation such as houses. I directed him to several government agencies, including the Telecom Regulatory Commission which was said to have launched a nationwide study on the subject.
Chanuka Wattegama has made a strong case for MNP to be examined at a public hearing. LIRNEasia has some relevant research, but the material below is all Chanuka’s. I was traveling and did not see this piece until today. While not unfamiliar to North America and Europe, Pakistan and India were the only South Asian countries to implement MNP. Pakistan maintains a central database with all its mobile user data.
One has to look to the business media for key broadband indicators in Sri Lanka. When one looks at the authoritative source, one does not see basic information such as how many fixed broadband connections have been given out, but nonsense such as “Internet and Email Subscribers.” What will it take for the TRC to report information based on the ITU’s definitions? Sri Lanka had 574,000 broadband customers by end December 2010, including 294,000 mobile broadband users. Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), the country’s only wireline operator has been pushing ADSL (assymetrical digital subscriber line) aggressively since last year notching up 213,000 customers by end December.
There wasn’t much of a problem with the disabled back in the old days. They were kept behind closed doors, so there was not much demand for accessibility in public places and such. Things have changed, for the good. Now, in the developed world, every part of a building must be accessible by wheelchair. Pedestrian crossing make a noise in addition to just the color signal.
For a long time, we were the voice in the wilderness. But now the regulator is on the job. If the promised results materialize, we can move on to something else: “Three months ago, most operators were provided services 70% less than the speed rate advertised in the package”, TRC Director General Anusha Palpita said. The speed-up move came after the TRC carried out an evaluation of the quality of service including speeds of fixed broadband services – ADSL and WiMAX. Mr.
To learn about the state of broadband in Sri Lanka, one has to rely on the media and on company releases, not the normal source which is the Ministry or regulatory agency. Today LBO carried the following story: Sri Lanka Telecom, the island’s largest fixed access operator said it had added 80,000 new broadband customers in 2010 and its base of 200,000 customers was 70 percent of the market. About 20 percent of the operator’s wireline customers were now using its ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) services, the telco said in a statement. From the above we can conclude that Sri Lanka has roughly 286,000 broadband subscriptions. We have no idea whether this number includes those using dongles, or simply those who subscribed to the “fixed wireless” options provided by LankaCom, Dialog etc.
Earlier this year the TRC appointed a special committee to develop broadband in Sri Lanka. Possibly based on its recommendations the TRC has issued new directives on broadband, placing emphasis on customer’s right to know, an approach we at LIRNEasia also promoted a few months prior to the constitution of the committee. The guidelines had been issued in August. We regret not giving them publicity at the time. With the intention of raising awareness among broadband subscribers, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission has issued a set of guidelines for broadband service providers.
Some people celebrate 25 years of anything: dead marriages, inert regional groupings, just occupying space. We don’t. SAARC must be assessed by its fruits. On internal connectivity it fails. Here’s the evidence, carried in op-ed articles in Bangladesh’s Daily Star, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror and also in a PTI dispatch: It is always easier to do things within one’s own country than outside, or at least it should be.
Given the interest rate spread that is generally high, it did not take much effort to make money from banks in Sri Lanka. But state banks are state banks. You’d expect them and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to be highest revenue earners for the government. But nothing can keep up with what the TRC gives the Treasury: It would take 2.3 billion rupees coming from Bank of Ceylon, 1.
Sri Lanka, with many others, agreed to abide by the Regulatory Reference Paper that forms part of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services. Clause 6 of the Reference Paper states: Any procedures for the allocation and use of scarce resources, including frequencies, numbers and rights of way, will be carried out in an objective, timely, transparent and non-discriminatory manner. The current state of allocated frequency bands will be made publicly available, but detailed identification of frequencies allocated for specific government uses is not required. This was the case in Sri Lanka until the new website for set up (inaugurated by a high official of the ITU which supports transparency and other good things). The Master Register of Frequencies that was on the website, is no longer accessible through a button; when one does a search the register that comes up is dated 2003.
A regional workshop on next generation networks will be held in Colombo, April 7-10, 2009. We wish it success in advancing the rollout of next generation networks in the region.
Senior citizen and former left wing politician Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who drew attention as a public activist as the successful petitioner in the Lanka Marine Services Ltd., (LMSL), is now threatening to take up another public interest issue in court – failure of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission’s (TRC) to comply with a Supreme Court (SC) order of May 7, 2007 to draw up a new tariff structure. In a letter dated October 10, 2008 to TRC Director General Priyantha Kariyapperuma – copied to The Sunday Times – Mr. Nanayakkara states that ‘OPA’s experts in their presentation to the TRC, around March 2008, explained and established that the TRC’s tariff proposal recommended to the SC is flawed mathematically and technically and that it is in violation of the provisions in the Sri Lanka. In particular, Mr.