Tue | Dec 5, 2023

JPS infrastructure to be covered under cybercrimes law

Published:Sunday | May 21, 2023 | 1:54 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

Persons who modify, access, intercept, obstruct, interrupt or impair the computers, program, data or communications system of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) without authorisation under the Cybercrimes Act could find themselves in trouble with the law.

The JPS, in its submission to the joint select committee considering the Electricity Act 2015, had asked lawmakers to consider extending the provisions of the legislation to hacking into the electricity infrastructure through any point, including meters.

In its submission, the JPS said it wanted this breach to be explicitly made a criminal offence under the Electricity Act.

Further, JPS said that consideration should also be given to expressly including smart meters and other associated electricity communication systems under the definition of computers in the Cybercrimes Act.

Kadene Campbell, senior legal officer in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy, told the joint select committee reviewing the Electricity Act 2015 on Thursday that there was no need to include the concerns of the JPS in the Electricity Act as provisions in the proposed new cybercrimes law had already addressed those issues.

She made it clear that the JPS infrastructure would be covered under the new cybercrimes law.

And the committee also discussed Section 28 of the proposed new Electricity Act that deals with the offence of cutting electricity lines.

In its submission, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) said that because of the very specific definition of “supply” in the legislation, its use in Section 28 seems to exclude an intent to disrupt the transmission or distribution of electricity from the offence.

Campbell told lawmakers that the regulatory body recommended that a provision be inserted to reflect that the intent to disrupt any transmission, distribution or supply of electricity should be made an offence.

The OUR’s recommendation was accepted by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

The ministry has also accepted a recommendation that any person who incites another person to interrupt supply, distribution and transmission of electricity commits an offence.

JPS licence

On another matter, Campbell pointed out that current policy requires the retention of the JPS as the single buyer, noting that the terms of the licence granted to the light and power company will be upheld.

She explained that one of the terms of the contract grants exclusivity to JPS in relation to transmission distribution and supply of electricity.

The senior legal officer told the committee that the Government is constrained at this time to grant a licence to any other person in relation to distribution, transmission and supply.

“It might very well be that any further consideration may be appropriate to be taken at a future review because the licence will expire soon,” she said.

“The licence to JPS has already been agreed therefore any departure from that would require serious consideration or may result in legal or other risks,” she added.