The Telecommunications Authority Suriname is the designated organization from the Government that is concerned with the implementation of the telecommunications law in Suriname.


Brief historical overview of the TAS

One of the most important building blocks of contemporary society in particular with regard to economic development is telecommunications. Until 2004, our country had to rely on the Telegraph and Telephone Act 1945 (G.B. 1945 no.113, last amended by S.B. 1983 no. 54) for the regulation of telecommunications. This law has been amended several times since its entry into force in order to keep pace with technological developments that have taken place in telecommunications. However, technological developments have since experienced a stormy development. With the introduction of the personal computer, the "information society" had made its entry. Satellite communication and other wireless communication (celluar phone) and even a combination of the two as well as the Internet are indispensable in today's society. These changes meant that the legislation at the time was inadequate and required new legislation that would meet the requirements of the developments of the time. In addition to technological developments, other aspects were also important with regard to telecommunications.

Progressive liberalization was gradually diverting telecommunications from the government womb. A first step in this direction was taken by the then Government in 1980 by the institution of the Telecommunications Company Suriname (TELESUR) by Decree C-38 of 24 December 1980 (SB 1980 no. 140, as last amended by SB 2002 no. 63, which, as the sui generis legal entity, was the only company providing telecommunications services for telephony until 1998. However, TELESUR had a two-part mission:

On the one hand making telecommunication facilities (art. 3 of Decree C-38)

On the other hand granting permits (art. 5 of Decree C-38)

Since many of the company's activities had to be labeled as governmental duties; tasks that lie in the public law sphere, it is advisable not to transfer these public law tasks to a limited company under the circumstances. Consequently, the government at that time opted for legal personality sui generis (granted under the law). Internationally, the vision regarding the provision of telecommunications facilities had been seen for a number of years, compared to a vision outlined in the eighties. It was no longer held that the provision of telecommunications services is by definition a government task. The time came to lift the state monopoly that had existed since the early years of telecommunications and to approach telecommunications more in line with the market and thus allow competition. Granting a limited number of concessions offered the perfect opportunity to do so.

Initially, the Government envisaged a duopoly in which one other concessionaire would be admitted in addition to TELESUR. On January 6, 1997, the Government issued a letter of intent to NV International Communication Management and Services (ICMS) regarding the granting of a concession for the construction and operation of telegraphs, telephones and other telecommunications equipment, followed by the granting of a provisional concession on 19 January 1998. Regretfully, the Government had to conclude that the granting of this provisional concession did not meet expectations.

Therefore, in order to tie in with modern telecommunications developments, it was desirable to create the legal basis for the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in Suriname. As stated, the aim was to grant a limited number of concessions. On the basis of experience with such a system of concessions, further liberalization could be discussed in the longer term. In light of the foregoing, the Government has undertaken internationally to end the era of telecommunications monopoly in the Schedule of Specific Commitments relating to our country's telecommunications, which was drawn up in the in the context of compliance with the obligations of membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The acceptance of other concessionaires besides TELESUR meant that competition arose with regard to the operation of the telecommunications company, which meant that the authority granted to TELESUR by the aforementioned Decree C-38 of 24 December 1980, pursuant to art. 3 of the Telegraph and Telephone Act 1945 and other public-law duties to be performed by TELESUR, in the opinion of the Government, could no longer be performed by TELESUR. These would henceforth be exercised by the Telecommunications Authority Suriname (TAS). The State Decree of 26 March 1998 (SB 1998 no.32) whereby the TAS was provisionally instituted, was related to this by the Law of 11 November 2004 concerning the rules with regard to telecommunications facilities (Telecommunications Services Act) withdrawn.

The private law tasks, including the construction, development and operation of the telecommunications infrastructure (the power stations and the networks with everything that belongs to them), have been entrusted to a limited number of legal entities, which can offer national and international telecommunications facilities.

In addition to the international developments described above, which required changes to the telecommunications policy pursued at the time and the related legislation, the Government also recognized four national policy principles with regard to the development of our country's telecommunications, which also endorsed the need for change.

The Government wished to point out here that it was well aware that telecommunications are not an end in themselves, but a means of achieving other objectives, as the following policy principles show:

Telecommunication is no longer a matter of a few privileged persons. The entire population is entitled to telecommunications services that can be offered. There should be no discrimination in terms of quality. Moreover, counting communication must play a role in the educational, administrative and social development of Surinamese society. The rates for offering services must therefore be acceptable.

Telecommunications play a crucial role in the interest of the economic development of our country. Business must be stimulated by offering modern and attractive service packages with a favorable price-quality ratio, so that it can positively distinguish itself from the countries in the region.

Internationally, the competitive position of our country needs to be strengthened, which gives a positive impulse to attracting foreign investors. The presence of adequate telecommunication facilities is a sine qua non for this.

To support the growing use of counting communications facilities, it is essential that the telecommunications infrastructure is updated and kept up-to-date so that all innovations using high bandwidth and / or advanced digital technologies can be quickly requested by the user implemented.

The aforementioned policy principles made it necessary to adapt the now very outdated Telegraph and Telephone Act 1945 not only to modern developments, but even to replace them entirely by a new law. The Telecommunications Services Act serves this purpose.

Both telecom and computer science were strongly influenced by the rapid developments in science and technology. The technological development in the field of telecommunications infrastructure and peripheral equipment enables an increasing offer of new services to users.

The main developments were:

  • Digitization of transmission and switching means;
  • Application of fiber optic cable and satellites;
  • Transformation of the infrastructure, in which separate networks were currently present, each optimized for a specific service (telephone, telex, data communication), into one network over which many forms of transport of signals can be handled, the so-called Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN ) 

The Government wished to encourage these developments. The aim was to express the state of the art in the level of service within the given business economic possibilities. This Act of 11 November 2004 Telecommunications Services Act aims to create the preconditions within which these developments can reach full maturity.

In the desire of the Government to operate other telecommunications companies on the market in addition to TELESUR in order to allow competition, the TAS was established as an independent body. The reason for this was on the one hand the fact that the government will itself be (sole) shareholder in TELESUR and there would therefore be a conflict of interest if the same government also exercises the public-law powers with regard to telecommunications, whereby favoring one's own company should not be excluded. On the other hand, the functioning of the TAS is also facilitated to a certain extent, because the TAS is not bound by the straitjacket of the Government Accounts Act and related regulation, to which official services are bound. Independence is not only evident from the naming, but also from the attribution of legal personality.

The TAS is in fact given the status of an independent administrative body, on the understanding that reports must be made to the Minister of Transport, Communication and Tourism and the Minister can make adjustments by giving general instructions.