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ECTEL Introduces EC Bill in Quest to Develop Digital Economy

Member states of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) plan on taking a bolder approach to regulate a more robust and efficient ‘digital economy’ in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.

Infrastructure and Telecommunications Minister, Stephenson King, the incoming Chairman of ECTEL, updated reporters on the latest developments in the sub-region.

Infrastructure and Telecommunications Minister, Stephenson King
Infrastructure and Telecommunications Minister, Stephenson King

He acknowledged the significance of this ‘milestone achievement’ with introduction of the new Electronic Communications (EC) Bill that is initially being promulgated in the member state of St Kitts/Nevis.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of the telecommunications sector as we transition from a regulatory regime that was successful in the liberation of the sector and promoting competition, to a regulatory regime that will provide the foundation for the digital transformation of the economies in the ECTEL member states,” declared King.

“Over the past 21 years sector regulation has delivered several winds to consumers, including fixed broadband and mobile penetration communication, significant reduction in calling rates, increased fixed broadband and speeds, introduction of new technology such as 4G and more recently, increased customer choice with the introduction of Mobile Number Portability in 2019,” he added.

Noting that the electronic communications sector has also contributed significantly to ECTEL’s economic growth in the five ECTEL member states, the ECTEL chairman asserted: “In the past five years, service providers have invested an average of $136 million annually across the ECTEL states, while providing full employment for more than 780 people.

“In the past eight months, whilst we lived through the unprecedented global pandemic, access to broadband service proved to be a lifeline as many accept that, that aspect of modern day life could only continue thanks to the shift to digital services.”

King continued, “Across the ECTEL member states, the sector showed some level of resilience as to some extent the service providers were able to meet increase in demand on the network.”

However, he said, the pandemic identified a significant disparity amongst households “ where persons were able to transition almost seamlessly to online learning and working from home and households where persons had either limited access to broadband service or could not afford broadband access.”

King said, “Challenges with quality of service and quality of customer experiences also proved to be a significant hurdle for customers.”

Cognizant of the importance of the digital service sector, especially in these times of crisis, King said: “ECTEL is mindful of these challenges and the new Electronic Communications Regulatory regime recommended to all the member states will provide the NTRCs with the tools needed to address a number of these issues.”

Cheryl Hector Fontenelle, ECTEL’s acting General Manager, noted that the role of the sector “as the foundation for the digital economy” was brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said there lies a “very ambitious work plan” in store for the ECTEL council and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Commissions -NTRCs to perform in this global transition.

“The main focus of this work plan will be the transition to a new regulatory system with the promulgation of the EC Bill in our member states,” Fontenelle said.

Koretta Crooks-Charles, ECTEL’s Communications and Media Relations Manager noted that information and technology (ICTs) apparatus play an important role “for the continued participation of societies.”

However, she said, “With the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is much clearer now. Plus, what is even more evident is the disparity between countries where ICT is concerned.”

ECTEL performs the role of the ‘regulatory body’ for electronic communications in its five-member states, namely; Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts/Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Charles disclosed that one of ECTEL’s major projects, at this time, is advocating for all member states to pass the Electronic Communications Bill or the EC Bill.

She explained that this bill “will ensure that the ECTEL Regulatory System can have a more robust mechanism for regulating the activities of electronic providers and operators and ensuring protection of consumers’ rights.”

1 Comment

  1. Many years ago when older persons in St.Lucia will remember the names of such vehicles as the Morris Marina, Austin and Morris Minis and a slew of other such UK manufactured vehicles as were to be seen on St.Lucia’s highways, British Leyland in the UK introduced what they considered to be a ‘ Revolutionary Concept ‘ with a Vehicle called the Austin Allegro.

    What you might ask was this so called ‘ Revolutionary Concept It was a Square Steering Wheel !!! Wow you might say what a brilliant idea these designers have come up with !! Brilliant my foot, it was ‘ change for the sake of change ‘ as the Round Steering Wheel which had been in existence since the dawn of the Motorised Personal Vehicles such as the Model ‘ T ‘ Ford had proved, has stood the test of time and has been far better suited for the purpose than any smart a—-d designer inspired ‘ Square Steering Wheel ‘ could ever have proved to be

    What did British Leyland do with this amazing concept do I hear you say ?? Well they junked it and went back to a Round Steering Wheel as had been proven to be the best ‘ tool for the job ‘ that the old time workers could come up with

    Now you might ask what was my purpose in regaling you with tales of yesteryear with Austin Allegros and the like .???..

    Simple Mr Ectel Chairman – whilst you are busy expounding on the merits of the Digital Transformation of the Local Communications Systems, FLOW ( as in Cable & Wireless Communications vis a vis Liberty Global, are creating their own ‘ Allegro Moment ‘ and racing to destroy the Public Switched Telephone Network ( PSTN ) (which took decades of work by many of our Loyal Telecommunications Workers) in their never ending quest to ‘ Improve the Bottom ‘ Line for the Shareholders and investors of Liberty Global et al

    Their ‘ Allegro Moment ‘ involves ripping out the underground cables which have served our people well for so many years and not only selling the scrap copper to the highest bidder but in the process destroying the Hurricane ( and Lucelec Outage ) Resistant Communications System and replacing it with an upgraded ( or should it be downgraded ) System which relies solely upon a good Internet Connection to give us a lifeline in the event of a need to call for help in the aftermath of a disaster such as befell our Brothers & Sisters in Dominica with Hurricane Maria in recent years

    There are some things Mr Ectel Chairman which cannot be just junked in the name of Bottom Lines and this is one such time for you to stand firm against Flow’s Allegro Moment and stop this wholesale destruction of our Tried and Trusted ‘ Fixed Lines ‘ in the name of so called progress

    ps Mr Ectel Chairman , Hurricane Elsa when she came a calling was just a taste of things to come when Climate Change really bites and ‘ Maria ‘ becomes a norm rather than a once in a lifetime event for the people of the Caribbean – ask your constituents how impressed they were with Flow’s ‘ Upgraded System’ when Elsa dropped in to say hello and they couldn’t call anyone on the ‘ Upgraded Flow ‘ Multi- Functional all singing and dancing System cos ‘ Guess what ?? Lucelec went the whole hog with National Outages and Flow’s Allegro Moment bit many a Loyal Subscriber right in their rear end with a vengeance

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