Batelco and TRA head for court over cut-price internet offer

Batelco today confirmed it is in the process of initiating legal action against the Kingdom of Bahrain’s ’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) after the latter issued an ‘emergency order’ directing Batelco to stop offering customers its recently-launched BD10 per month ‘light user’ broadband package.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  June 15, 2006

Batelco today confirmed it is in the process of initiating legal action against the Kingdom of Bahrain’s ’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) after the latter issued an ‘emergency order’ directing Batelco to stop offering customers its recently-launched BD10 per month ‘light user’ broadband package. A Batelco press statement, issued today by its head of corporate affairs, Ahmed Al Janahi, explained that the organisation is "being forced to pursue all legal means to defend itself against such unprecedented and arbitrary approach by the TRA.” It added that it had not yet begun receiving any customer payments for the BD10 256Kbyte-speed internet package that it has been ordered to halt. According to the statement, Batelco respects the fact that the TRA has the power under sections 3(c)1 and 3(c)18 of the Kingdom’s Telecommunications Law to issue an order against Batelco. And to ensure that Batelco fully complies with the Telecommunications Law, Batelco has been ordered to publish the following comment, as prepared by the TRA and, included in its Emergency Order 1 /06: ”Batelco has today been ordered by the Telecommunications Authority to cease to offer a BD 10 per month, 256 kbit/s DSL package. This is because Batelco failed to meet its obligations under the Telecommunications Law and its License. Batelco apologises to its consumers in that it has misled them through the advertisements issued that it could offer such packages when it was aware that it could not do so legally. This announcement is issued pursuant to the order of the Authority.” In response to this order, Batelco outlined that it had been requesting approval from the TRA since back in January of this year and, although the TRA had not officially given Batelco the go-ahead for the latter’s ‘light user’ package, the latter believed it has met “all the criteria about offering a service above cost to consumers” and as such believed its ‘light user’ package complied with Telecommunications Law when launched just one week ago (read the original itp.net story here). Batelco's statement added that the TRA has demanded it offer a similar service, at wholesale rates, to its competitors. And despite Batelco's repeated protests to the TRA that it was “unfair and unreasonable” under the Telecommunications Law to link a retail service with a wholesale one, Batelco has since offered its competitors such a service at what it claimed are “significantly more competitive rates” than those applying to its retail customers. Many ISPs, Batelco added, must have considered these rates to be fair, equitable and non-discriminatory, because they signed up for the service. This is why Batelco was of the opinion that it had met the TRA’s conditions for its BD10 package. As part of this year’s submission of internet packages to the TRA, Batelco did receive approval for a number of higher priced internet packages than its BD10 per month ‘light user’ product. However in its statement today it predicted that the TRA will not approve this lowest-priced internet package, which it claims would benefit low income earners in the Kingdom. Batelco concluded that because its BD10 retail offer meets the cost criteria of the Telecommunications Law, the TRA's ‘order’ action is primarily aimed at preventing Batelco from offering this product and competing in the market. Batelco finally added that it will continue to meet with the TRA and attempt to resolve the matter, whilst simultaneously encouraging Bahraini consumers themselves to directly appeal to the TRA “if they want better and lower prices for internet and other services”.

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