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Telecom operators may have to compensate users for blackouts

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The Bureau of Telecommunications Regulation (DSRT) is studying the feasibility of a legal mechanism for telecom operators to compensate users in the case of a network breakdown, after last year’s multiple blackouts cast doubts over the telecom concessionaire’s reliability and the telecom watchdog’s responsibility.
DSRT director Tou Veng Keong was also at AL with his boss Lau Si Io to answer legislators’ enquiries. Tou said that in light of the five telecommunications network disruptions that happened in Macau in recent years, the Bureau is actively studying all kinds of measures helpful for the improvement of telecommunications services. In the field of laws and regulations, he said that the DSRT is considering the possibility of making telecommunications network operators play mutually-supportive roles in instances of a network failure - across Macau entirely, or in the case of only one or two providers. In cases where legal responsibilities are clearly demarcated, the telecom operator(s) will be asked to compensate the users affected. The Bureau is still studying the feasibility of such a mechanism, and no decision has yet been made.
Tou also promised to hire professional consultants to overview and evaluate the operation of Macau’s telecommunications operators. For DSRT’s part, Tou acknowledged that the telecom regulatory authority has inadequacies, and in the future they will also require the consultants to evaluate the work of the bureau and make recommendations for improving the watchdog’s practices.
Macau’s main telecommunications provider CTM suffered a system breakdown late last month in its 3G network that left some of its users unconnected for around half an hour. The operator came under severe criticism for two network blackouts in February and May and was fined MOP 180,000 and MOP 800,000 for the two crashes that affected tens of thousands of users.
Separately, Ng Kuok Cheong asked the Secretary about Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On’s earlier promise to study the feasibility of “Macau Properties for Macau Residents,” which suggested making all the residential properties built on reclaimed land to be sold to local residents only. Lau said no timetable has yet been finalized for the proposal that he said involved “complicated legal issues” and a wide range of considerations, such as if the proposal was part of a long-term housing policy or just a temporary measure countering high property prices currently upsetting the private market. There is also a definitional problem related to the use of the term “Macau residents,” and whether or not they are limited to permanent residents. But Lau promised to commission an academic institution to study the issue in the first half of this year, after which analysis and public consultation would take place before a decision is made on the next step.  SC

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