Eastern Caribbean updates Telecom Regulations

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Legislatures of the five eastern Caribbean nations that make up the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) are debating a common new Electronic Communications Bill which will take internet-based services into account and set standards for levels of service.

Five Caribbean states are to enact a new telecommunications law to replace existing regulations that date back to 2000.

The independent states are all members of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (Ectel), which is the telecoms regulator for the five – Dominica; Grenada; St Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Legislatures of all five are debating a common new Electronic Communications Bill, which will replace the existing law, passed in 2000 by each country in turn. Ministers of the five countries have already met to discuss the bill, which will also require a new treaty between them.

“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 Act can no longer work for us,” said Quincy Prentice, board director of Ectel, quoted in the St Kitts and Nevis Observer.

The new legislation will take internet-based services into account, he said and it will set standards for levels of service. As an indicator of the change in technology since Ectel was formed, its logo shows a satellite dish – the main means of linking the islands to the rest of the world in 2000.

The five countries have a total population of 525,000, and all use the East Caribbean dollar as a common currency, worth around US$0.37. Cable & Wireless and Digicel are the two mobile competitors in each country. It was Cable & Wireless’s acquisition of Columbus International that led the five to seek to strengthen the legislation that governs Ectel.

Meanwhile Ectel has appointed Andrew Millet as acting managing director on the retirement of Embert Charles, who has run the regulator for nine years. Millet, who was director of technical services until his promotion, holds a master’s degree in telecommunications from Coventry University in the UK.

According to Ectel, his focus will be working on the draft bill and the issue of new operating licences; charting a strategic plan for the 2017-18 financial year; and launching of a new spectrum management and monitoring system for the five member states.