Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 17, 2015 (SKNIS)—The Honourable Senator Vincent Fitzgerald Byron, who holds the portfolio of Minister of Communications but who also is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs in the Team Unity Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, has assumed chairmanship of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) Council of Ministers, taking over from Honourable Gregory Bowen, Minister of Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities and ICT in Grenada and the Grenadines.
Senator Byron’s elevation to the chair of the ECTEL Council of Ministers took place on Thursday, October 15, during the thirty-second meeting of the ECTEL Council of Ministers held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. The telecommunications regulatory body is also celebrating its 15th anniversary of founding on May 4, 2000 by a Treaty signed in St. George’s, Grenada by the Governments of five Eastern Caribbean States: Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Minister Byron’s election comes at a challenging time when there are ongoing negotiations between ECTEL and Cable and Wireless on measures to mitigate the impact of the merger of Columbus Communications Inc. and Cable and Wireless.
Cable and Wireless and Columbus Communications Inc., two major telecommunications providers, have joined to together to form FLOW, which saw the launch in St. Kitts and Nevis yesterday, October 16.
ECTEL is raising concerns that the decision of FLOW to raise the price of broadband in the region is a retrogressive step at a time when service providers worldwide are looking to increase access to broadband and make broadband more affordable especially “to citizens of countries that are already faced with so many economic hardships.”
A statement from ECTEL read that the telecommunications regulatory body wrote to Cable and Wireless in June of this year with proposals for modifications of its existing licenses in order to address a number of potential negative impacts of the merger on the telecommunications market in its Member States.
In his first address to the Council of Ministers, the new chair of ECTEL, Senator Byron, said that the Member States of ECTEL face common issues.
“We all face very similar issues that in some cases are very challenging and require that we take very deliberate, serious consideration of these matters. I think we in the Eastern Caribbean are at the crossroads in relation to the direction we take when it comes to the telecommunications industry sector,” Senator Byron said.
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.
The Council of Ministers is made up of the Ministers responsible for Telecommunications in the ECTEL states, and the Director General of the OECS as an ex-officio member. Responsibilities include giving directives to the Board of Directors on matters arising out of the Treaty, and ensuring that the Board is responsive to the needs of the Member States in the implementation of telecommunications policy.
The Board of Directors comprises one member and an alternate from each Member State and the Managing Director of ECTEL as an ex-officio member. Responsibilities include making recommendations to the Council on any matter relating to telecommunications, and establishing rules and procedures consistent with the Treaty for the management and operation of the ECTEL Directorate.
The NTRCs – National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions – are the Telecommunications regulators at the national level in each Member State. They are responsible for the processing of applications and advising the Minister on the award of licences.