The most frequently asked questions about URCA
What is URCA?
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) is the regulatory authority with responsibility for the electronic communications sector (ECS) in The Bahamas. The sector comprises fixed and mobile telephone services, spectrum and numbering, broadcasting including pay television and Internet services. URCA is an independent authority governed by a five-member Board comprising three (3) non-executive members, including the Board’s chairperson, and two (2) ex officio members; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of Policy and Regulation (DPR). Non-executive members are appointed by the Governor General.Back to top
How did URCA come about?
In 2009, a new regulatory regime for electronic communications in The Bahamas was established with the passage of three (3) core pieces of legislation. The Communications Act, 2009, The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) Act, 2009 and the Utilities Appeal Tribunal (UAT) Act, 2009. URCA replaced the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Television Regulatory Authority (TRA).Back to top
What does URCA regulate?
As the regulatory authority with responsibility for the electronic communications sector (ECS) in The Bahamas, URCA regulates fixed and mobile telephone services, spectrum and numbering, broadcasting including pay television and Internet services. URCA does not regulate energy and electricity, water, waste water and sewerage and transportation. URCA only regulates utilities and services falling within the ECS.Back to top
How do I make a complaint?
Before escalating a complaint to URCA, consumers should first submit their complaint to the respective operator or service provider, whom their complaint is about. It is important that the operator or service provider be permitted reasonable opportunity to address the complaint. When complaints are escalated to URCA, complaints should be made in writing and may be sent via email to email@example.com; by traditional mail to P. O. Box N4860, Nassau, The Bahamas; or by fax to 242 393 0153.Back to top
Why is it necessary to put complaints in writing?
A written complaint leaves no doubt as to the nature and substance of the complaint. Operators and service providers also respond to complaints in writing. The written complaint creates a record and enables the Authority to assess the merits of both the complaint and the service provider’s response. A written complaint also suggests a thoughtfulness and a genuine concern on the part of the complainant, rather than a passing, impulsive reaction.Back to top
What information should be included in a complaint?
- The name of the service provider against whom the complaint is being made and the specific service that is the basis of the complaint
- Where applicable, the account holder’s name and/or account number for the service associated with the complaint
- The name and contact information of the complainant, and in cases where the complainant is not also the account holder, the relation of the complainant to the account holder which explains submission of the complaint
- Details regarding the complaint, including explanation of the nature of the complaint, at least approximate dates concerning the specific issue triggering the complaint; in addition to at least approximate dates of actions taken by the consumer and the service provider, in relation to the complaint and attempts to resolve it
- Where possible, consumers may also provide specific contact information for persons handling and/or assigned by the service provider to address the stated issue(s)
- The complainant’s understanding of the status of the complaint with the operator, at the time the complaint is submitted to URCA
- Complainants may also submit to URCA copies of any documentation relevant to the complaint
What if I wish to complain about something that I saw or heard on a local television or radio broadcast?
There is a detailed Content Regulation Code by which all licenced television and radio broadcasters in The Bahamas must abide. The Code defines underlying principles for broadcasting in The Bahamas, and speaks to issues of Harm and Offence, the Protection of Young Persons, Political Broadcasts and Political Advertisements, Advertising and Sponsorships, and News and Factual programmes. The Code also outlines a specific complaints process, in Part 10 of the document which may be downloaded via the following link: Content CodeBack to top
Licence Fees and Billing
How is the URCA fee determined?
The annual URCA Fee funds the operations of URCA. The Fee is set at a level allowing fee collections to cover URCA’s budgeted costs for the forthcoming financial year. Each year, URCA publishes its Annual Plan which outlines its objectives and targeted activities for the approaching year. The Plan also includes URCA’s budgeted expenditure needs for that year, based on the stated objectives and activities. The annual URCA Fee is calculated based on a Licensee’s relevant turnover. For Licensee’s with relevant turnover less than $500,000, the URCA Fee is set at a flat rate. URCA’s Fee Schedule is published is annually on its website.Back to top
What is the Communications Fee and who is required to pay it?
The Communications Fee is a statutory fee set in Schedule 3 of the Communications Act at 3% of the Licensee’s relevant turnover, which can only be changed by way of an amendment to the Communications Act. Licensees required to pay the URCA Annual Fee must also pay the Communications Licence Fee (“Communications Fee”) pursuant to section 92(1)(c) of the Communication Act. This fee becomes payable before a Licensee commences its licensed activities under the Communications Act.Back to top
By what payment methods can entities pay URCA fees or Government fees?
Any of the following are acceptable methods of payment:
- Master or Visa Credit card (payment made at URCA’s office)
- Money order
- Bank transfer
- Bank draft/manager’s cheque
- Direct payment/deposit into URCA’s bank account
Can URCA waive my Government fees?
All Government fees billed and collected on behalf of The Bahamas Government are “pass through” fees. URCA has no discretion to permit payment arrangements or exemptions of these fees.Back to top
If applying for multiple services, does each service require a separate application and likewise individual application fees for each service?
Where a licence applicant intends to provide multiple services under a licence, the applicant should submit one application form indicating the various services and the application fee will be charged based on the highest fee amount of the services for which application has been made. For example, where an applicant has submitted an application for a licence to provide Pay Television, Fixed Voice and internet services, the applicant will be charged the fee that is the highest among those three services.Back to top
Why should Licensees submit information to URCA?
Pursuant to Condition 5.1.2 of the Individual Operating Licence and Condition 1.29.2 of the Class Operating Requiring Registration, The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) may require supply of financial information and other information from Licencees. Failure to provide requested information will be considered a breach of Condition 6 for the Individual Licence or Condition 1.32 for the Class Operating Requiring Registration, and subject to applicable penalties under the various licences.Back to top
Why is it important that URCA engage the public’s consultation on various matters before the Authority?
URCA believes that it is of the utmost importance, and is required by section 11 of the Communications Act, to allow individuals who may be affected by any regulatory measure which URCA contemplates an adequate opportunity to respond and provide their input. Where the measure is likely to affect the general public, URCA uses the public consultation method to obtain and address comments from interested members of the public. Once comments have been received URCA considers the comments and representations and takes them into account prior to introducing the new measure.Back to top
On what kinds of matters and/or projects might URCA seek the public’s consultation?
URCA consults with the public on matters which in URCA’s opinion are of public significance, and those on which it is specifically required by the Communications Act to consult.Back to top
What might a public consultation or the public consultative process entail?
A public consultation would usually be conducted either through written means only, or might in certain cases entail URCA engaging the public in a direct way through town meetings and other similar interactions.
Where URCA conducts the consultation through written means only, it would publish a consultation document containing the relevant details of the measure that URCA is proposing to implement, and invite interested persons to submit comments on the issues to URCA in writing, within a specified period. Usually not less than one month after publication.
Where URCA consults more widely and includes face-to-face engagement, the specific details are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the anticipated public significance and interest in the matter. Usually such exercises would also involve publication of a consultation document, setting out the salient details of the proposed regulatory measure. URCA would in these cases publicise the consultation exercise widely through the local media, and engage the public at appropriate forums and via suitable media throughout The Bahamas. Although URCA collects information from those public engagement forums, interested persons can and are still encouraged to review the consultation document and submit comments to URCA in writing as indicated and before the timeframe for consultation has closed.Back to top
Who is allowed to participate in these consultations and what would participation entail?
Any member of the public may participate and/or respond to the public consultation in writing, making comments online via URCA’s website when the consultation is posted, or at any public meeting hosted by URCA. Especially if they believe or feel that the measure which is proposed to be implemented is of significance to them, and directly or indirectly affects their lives.Back to top
How can members of the public know if and/or how input provided during the course of a public consultation has received consideration from URCA?
At the end of each consultation, URCA publishes a “Statement of Results” which details the comments received and provides URCA’s responses to those comments, as well as its Final Decision or other appropriate final regulatory measure. These documents clearly describe URCA’s thought process, analysis, and the reasons why URCA made and/or came to the conclusions which it did following that consultation. The Statement of Results and Final Decisions are published on URCA’s website, and physical copies are also made available at URCA’s offices.Back to top
Why do responses to public consultations have to be in writing? Why can’t I just ‘phone it in’?
Responses to Consultations must be in writing so that it is possible to verify both to the public and stake-holders that their comments were considered, analysed, and used in making the final decision. In addition, URCA is able to obtain a more complete perception of the views and beliefs related to the issues, which the person responding feels are important.Back to top
Would anonymous responses to a public consultation be accepted?
Respondents may request that their identity remain confidential when responding to a public consultation, though it remains the decision of URCA whether or not to grant that request. URCA is required to analyze and evaluate each request to ensure that disregarding the request would not be in the public’s best interest. Moreover, URCA’s primary objective is to remain transparent in all matters. When granting a request for confidentiality, URCA will publish a redacted version of the submission, so that the essence of the response is made public while preserving confidentiality.Back to top