Photo: Quincy Prentice, director of the ECTEL Board of Directors
ECTEL member states to undergo telecommunications reform
Basseterre, St. Kitts – The five member states of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) are currently undergoing a process of reform to update the telecommunications framework with legislation. A new Electronic Communications Bill is expected to come before the parliaments of the five member states for debate and subsequent passage into law.
The Electronic Communications Bill was introduced to the federal cabinet March 18 by officials from ECTEL. The Honourable Vincent Byron Jr., the minister of communications, said that there was a need to introduce the bill so that people can understand its importance. The bill is deemed necessary because the industry has transformed beyond telecommunications. It is committed to net neutrality, which enables access to an open Internet that member states can utilize.
“We have basically come to a point where through the dynamism of the telecoms industry and the advancements that have been made in technology, we are at a point where the existing [Telecommunications] Act can no longer work for us,” said Quincy Prentice, director of the ECTEL Board of Directors. “This [Electronic Communications] Bill takes care of a number of issues that is currently prevalent throughout a number of the member territories.” Prenctice’s comments came while appearing on the Aug. 16 edition of “Working for You.”
He added that the telecommunications industry throughout ECTEL member states is currently characterized by an increasing rate of fixed and mobile penetration. “In the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, for instance, we have a mobile penetration rate in excess of 156 percent,” he said. “So, if you were to break that down in layman’s terms, it essentially means that you have more cell phones than people in St. Kitts and Nevis.”
He explained that over the past five or six years, there has been a marked shift in the utilization of telecom traditional services to internet protocol (IP) base or over the top services such as apps on smartphones.
“…There is a gradual shift from the traditional services that would have been provided by the existing telecoms companies to a lot of services that are based on the Internet,” he said. “What does this means for us? It means that a number of these existing companies that would have essentially grown and built their business modules on these traditional services are now having to evolve as the consumers change their behaviour.”
He added that regulators and governments also have to evolve “because if it affects the service providers who are hiring [people] who are responsible for paying taxes and licensing fees, [so] it is going to affect you,” he said.
Prentice said that the new legislation speaks to the level of service within each country, as this is a very important element where consumers must receive great service for their monies.
“There are a number of sections in the new bill that seek to address quality of service because any user of telecom services in St. Kitts and Nevis has encountered an issue, be it with your Internet going down or your Internet dropping periodically…,” he added, noting that there will be specific key performance indicators (KPI) within the new legislation that each service provider will have to meet.
ECTEL was established on May 4, 2000, by a treaty signed in St. George’s, Grenada, by the governments of five Eastern Caribbean States – the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. ECTEL is the regulatory body for telecommunications in its member states. It is made up of three components – a Council of Ministers, a regional directorate and a National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in each member state.