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LTA Warns Lonestar Cell MTN

Liberia’s telecommunication sector regulatory arm has threatened to institute additional punitive measures against the Lonestar Cell MTN, should the company defy a three-day suspension announced by government last weekend.

Following the Liberia Telecommunication Authority’s (LTA’s) board of commissioners’ decision to suspend the Lonestar MTN’s two operating licenses from December 3, to 5, 2012; the LTA observed that the company has chosen to hide behind the numerical strength of its subscribers to term the suspension as unilateral.

The LTA suspended the company’s license for unilaterally disconnecting Comium GSM for prolonged indebtedness, while the matter was already taken before the regulatory body.

But LTA Commissioner for Government Affairs and National Policy Harry T. Yuan, told journalists in Sinkor Tuesday that “We will monitor and will bring to the attention every violation and every violation will be met with additional punitive measure.”

Commissioner Yuan said come December 3, 2012, Lonestar Cell MTN will be effectively monitored at the LTA, saying “We didn’t do this in vacuum; we taught about this long enough and we are prepared to monitor. If they don’t believe it, you will see come December 3.”

He argued that respecting laws was not characteristic of Lonestar MTN until the arrival of the corporation’s present CEO, Tebogo Mogapi, who has succeeded in taking out of court some of the cases filed by Lonestar MTN due to his managerial skills and respect for laws.

“Because they did wrong and when we were ready to penalize them, they ran to court. But he (CEO) took all of those and we have regularized everything for Lonestar. Had it not been because of his action, we wouldn’t be talking about 3 days; we would be talking about 14 days. We took cognizance of his managerial skills; the ability that he has shown and respect for laws that’s why the punishment was reduced to 3 days instead of 14 days,” said Commissioner Yuan.

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Also speaking, LTA Commissioner for Service Development and Market Structure Abdullah L. Kamara,  accused the Lonestar Cell MTN of misleading its customers, and warned that subscribers should prepare themselves to be able to make calls during the three days suspension.

He said Lonestar Cell MTN is using its customers as human shield to ‘throw stone’ and hide behind subscribers with the hope that the LTA will not take action.

“But that is misleading to their customers; I think they are not treating their consumers rightly. To break the laws and then use the customers to make calls to make it appears as if the customers have been harmed in this case,” said Kamara.

He further insisted that Lonestar is harming its customers, on grounds that if the company respects its customers, it will respect the laws that govern the telecom sector.

LTA’s Acting Chairman and Commissioner for Engineering and Technology Servicers Henry W. Benson said the telecom regulatory arm took everything into consideration and acted rightly; insisting “Our decision is justifiable.”

“We have the LTA Act that gives the LTA sole responsibility to regulate telecommunication. Who should LTA [consult]? We do have the statutory right; the mechanism and power to do what we have done,” he said.

Commissioner Benson recalled that in accordance with laws governing the telecom sector, LTA discussed with major stakeholders, including the Lonestar and the public in the various counties before taking its final decision last week.

“We have laws, policies, rules that govern the sector so we know it’s going to have serious ramification but the decision is taken based on punitive remedy. The action of the LTA is punitive in nature; we want to send out the signal,” Benson said.

He said while it is a known fact that Lonestar MTN has one of the highest subscribers around the country, it is also obvious there is a problem when the company’s licenses are suspended for wrongdoing.

“We are cognizant that areas where Lonestar is a lone service provider, they will make and receive calls, but 25 percent of the revenue goes to government. It doesn’t excite us to be talking about suspension. But again, the framers of the laws, the telecom Act of 2007 said there will be time you can suspend, fine and the big one is revocation and we do not want that; and we are sure that Lonestar doesn’t want that as well,” Commissioner Benson concluded.

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