Singapore is a “fine” city, as the T-shirt says.
Perhaps sensing it’s been missing out on something, the Ministry of Information Communications & the Arts (MICA) is seeking to massively increase its ability to inflict damage on telcos.
The ministry proposes to lift the maximum fine for breach of licence conditions by operators from S$1 million ($744,000) to 10% of turnover.
Outlining proposed changes to the Telecommunications Act, it doesn’t give a specific reason for this, apart from saying the current ceiling “may not be adequate” as a deterrent and that other industry regulators have this power.
That’s not to say the current penalty fine doesn’t deter. In the view of MICA, it may deter, but equally it may not. That’s enough to change the law.
MICA also wants to change the current rules, in which IDA gets to approve all telco CEOs, to require regulator approval for any change in voting power in a telco.
The proposed amendments also empower the minister to take control of a carrier in order to ensure “the security and reliability” of service.
While these are draconian rules in most markets – but business as usual in Singapore – there is one reform that would delight any telco. That’s the criminal sanctions against building owners who refuse access to the NBN.
Such powers “will have the global carrier community (and other Singapore carriers) green with envy,” said telecoms lawyer Alasdair Grant, principal of AC Grant & Associates.
“Facilities access has been one of the great failings of telecom regulation over the past twenty years and the cause of untold economic cost,” he told telecomasia.net.
Grant says the amendments show the government plans “to keep its hands squarely on the controls to ensure that the NGN model and the market structures it supports play out as intended.”
“These powers and enforcement provisions – to enforce further separation, sanction the ownership and control of key operators, even to take over failing companies - are very activist and vest largely in the minister,” he said.