Block on overseas phone calls website lifted
- GT&T seeks legal advice

Stabroek News
January 15, 2000

The block on a website which allows internet users to make overseas telephone calls by the local phone company has been lifted while legal advice is being sought on the matter.

A letter in yesterday's edition of the Stabroek News queried the legality of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd (GT&T) blocking the website which allows internet users to make overseas phone calls.

A check with an internet service provider (ISP) yesterday, however, revealed that the blockade which was supposedly enforced with special software called Squid Web Proxy Cache had been lifted some time before 11 am yesterday.

GT&T's Deputy General Manager for Public Communications, Terry Holder, when contacted by Stabroek News confirmed that "the situation [internet calls] had provoked the company to restrict access to certain websites earlier this week. That restriction has been lifted as we seek legal advice on the matter."

Holder said, "GT&T has noted what is a significant increase in use of voice over internet and is concerned about how legal this activity is and of its implications to the company in terms of loss of revenue. The government should also be concerned as every outgoing international call gets a ten percent consumption tax. The company will do everything that is legal to protect its interests." One ISP noted that the fact that GT&T had unilaterally blocked the site was evidence that it was still filtering internet traffic, which is in contravention of a previous government directive to end blocking of sites. He said that when the ISPs all signed up with GT&T this filtering system or proxy server was in place and the issue of blocking was not mentioned. With the government's directive GT&T is unable to block sites as it would show that it was indeed filtering, contrary to the wishes of the government. Another letter to this newspaper yesterday echoed this concern stating that GT&T "had unlawfully censored a site that does not fit into any of the so-called restricted guidelines set forth by the government. The minister of information and the government in their wisdom have removed the firewall [filter]. This retrograde step by GT&T can be described as an unfair trade practice and is monopolistic."

An official at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) whilst preferring not to discuss the legality of the action said that the ISPs should check their contracts with GT&T to see if the company was in breach of the terms. Should this be so, the ISPs could either take legal action or make a petition to the PUC for its consideration on the matter. The fact that the ISPs have contracts with GT&T would likely remove the matter from the immediate jurisdiction of the commission, the official said. (William Walker)

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