Regulators Discuss Improving Electronic Communications Services To Consumers

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The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) met virtually on September 13, 2022 for the 23rdapprox ECTEL/NTRC Advisory Forum.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide a platform for the NTRCs and ECTEL to discuss their budgets and work plan for the 2022/2023 financial year.

It was also used to keep up to date with the Universal Service Fund (USF) projects in each Member State and share insights on the implementation of the projects.

In his update, the Secretary/Coordinator of NTRC GrenadaMr. Lawrence Samuel identified several achievements that have been made over the past 20 years, including promoting open competition and promoting ubiquitous access and upgrading of telecommunications services, among others.

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Despite the achievements, however, there are still some gaps to be filled, such as the need to ensure better quality of service monitoring.

Some of the USF projects being implemented in Grenada include a public safety and disaster management project, a solar ICT center built in a rural community, and conducting an intergenerational boot camp that develops computer literacy and skills passed on to participants over the age of forty.

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Next was a presentation by the Director of NTRC Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mr Ervin Williams. He told the Assembly that speaking to the new Minister for Electronic Communications, the Honorable Konris Maynard, it was evident that he was ready to support ministers in the other Member States in getting the Electronic Communications (EC) bill passed.

Mr. Williams also provided an update on a health information system project for the Department of Health under the USF.

Mr Apollo Knights, NTRC St. Vincent and the Grenadines The Secretary/Director said some of the major programs being implemented include a review and update of the island’s national broadband plan, which was part of a commitment to the International Telecommunication Union’s initiative to connect people everywhere; the execution of the 24/7 online project, which includes four lots covering the provision of free wireless internet access in community centers, learning resource centers, sports fields, NGOs and some tourist attractions. He also mentioned that a new tourism app will be ready soon.

Mr Knights said the app will support the creation of more local content and support eco-tourism.

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Mr. Craig Nesty, the Executive Director of NTRC Commonwealth of Dominica indicated that their consumer protection initiative is ongoing.

Their website has been updated to ensure it is more consumer oriented. He also noted that customers are encouraged to submit complaints through the proper channel, rather than broadcasting their complaints on the radio.

Initiatives implemented by the NTRC include running Code Camp Caraibe for children aged 8 to 16, aimed at teaching computer literacy and problem-solving skills, and launching the Net4All initiative, which provides broadband services for EC$10 per month to individuals provides in need.

To conclude the NTRCs’ presentations, NTRC Saint Lucia Ms Joanita Alexander, Administrator, said public awareness remains the focus and they plan to disseminate information about the commission’s work through a variety of media platforms, road shows, town hall meetings and educational programmes.

Ms. Alexander also gave an overview of her recent Summer Tech program which was attended by sixty (60) fourth graders from secondary schools across the island.

Some of the USF projects being implemented in St. Lucia include providing an internet connection at the National Skills Development Centre; the provision of computers and internet connections at the Boys Training Center and the Smart Bus Shelter Connectivity Project among others.

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The meeting ended with an update from Ms Cheryl Hector Fontenelle, Executive Director of ECTEL (acting), on the Directorate’s work plan for 2022/2023. She announced that the board is in the process of developing a business continuity plan with a focus on resilience.

She said: “We are committed to working with our governments to ensure the digital transformation of our economies, so we need to transform our own organization to have a very robust IT infrastructure.”

Ms. Fontenelle also spoke about ECTEL’s role in the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project (CARDTP), which involves reviewing the legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the electronic communications sector and developing a regulatory impact assessment framework.

In addition, Ms. Fontenelle informed about the current status of the electronic communication (EC) bill in each ECTEL member state.

SOURCE: Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority

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