Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 20, 2017 (SKNIS): The telecommunications sector in the five Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) countries is expected to be boosted with the introduction of the Electronic Communications Bill, aimed at better managing the sector.
The Bill was introduced to the Federal Cabinet during a meeting on Saturday, March 18, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort by officials from ECTEL. The Honourable Vincent Byron Jr, Minister of Communications said that there was a need to introduce the Bill so that persons can be able to understand its importance.
“The Authority has given us the opportunity to present to as many stakeholders as possible the new Electronic Communications Bill that needs to be tabled and debated in Parliament so that the regulatory framework in which telecommunications in St. Kitts and Nevis operate can be reformed, revamped and brought into being,” said Minister Byron. “And so, a major function is for our team from ECTEL to introduce to Cabinet, as well as generally to our Parliamentary side of the government business, because it would require our members on the government benches to be knowledgeable of what this new Bill is intended to do, how it will fill the gaps, address any anomalies and any problems that the regulatory framework has been experiencing.”
Minister Byron said that the new Bill is critical for St. Kitts and Nevis and other member states in order to be able to manage how the telecommunication industry operates, as well as a number of operations that were agreed to and which will accompany the new framework.
Deborah Bowers, General Legal Counsel at ECTEL, said that the Bill is necessary because the industry has transformed beyond telecommunications.
“We no longer deal with just phones and telexes but we have electronic communications and it is the worldwide web which is what we deal with on a daily basis now. Our legislation does not cover mergers and acquisitions, it doesn’t cover competition in the sector, it doesn’t protect our consumers adequately and neither does it cover number probability,” she said. “So the current legislation which is the Telecommunications Act now needs to transform to cover the industry as the industry moves ahead.”
She explained that the new Bill is committed to net neutrality, which enables access to an open internet where member states can utilize.
In addition to meeting with Cabinet, the ECTEL team also met with the business community and civil society including government departments and ministries, as well as other stakeholders who depend on the telecommunications sector. They were also given an opportunity to meet with service providers in the Federation, namely, The Cable, Flow and Digicel.
ECTEL was established on May 04, 2000, by Treaty signed in St. George’s, Grenada, by the Governments of five Eastern Caribbean States – Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, 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.