Singapore Aims to Raise Penalties for Telcos

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Singapore's Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) has proposed changes to a law governing telecommunications operators that would raise penalties for companies that violate conditions of their licenses.

The changes being proposed by MICA aim to bring Singapore's Telecommunications Act up to date with changes in the telecommunications industry. "Telecom networks have increased in importance as consumers rely on these networks for all forms of communication services, including voice, data, video, Internet access and even television services," the ministry said in a consultation paper describing the proposed changes.

Among the biggest proposed changes are higher penalties for operators that violate conditions of their license or engage in anti-competitive conduct. The current maximum penalty of S$1 million would be raised to 10 percent of the company's annual revenue for the licensed service or S$1 million, whichever is higher. In addition, MICA's proposal would give the Infocommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the body that oversees the telecom sector, the ability to suspend or cancel the licenses of companies that don't pay fines on time.

In addition, the proposed changes would create a special administration order that allows the minister of information, communications and the arts to takeover a licensee and its operations under certain conditions, such as when an operator is no longer "commercially able" to offer licensed services.

"This could arise for instance where the network is relied upon for the provision of important telecom services and where there are no reasonable substitutes to the network, or in the case of an extensive network serving a large subscriber base whereby the cessation of service would cause major disturbance and inconvenience to the public and the economy," the consultation paper said, seeking local feedback on the proposed changes.

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