The Council of Ministers of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) – the body which represents the interests and provides an overarching regulatory structure for the Eastern Caribbean states of Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines – has approved new legislation designed to enhance the competition environment for telecoms across all member states. In a statement published this week, the Council confirmed that the new regulations will address issues such as: consumer protection; submarine cable regulations, specifically in terms of defining conditions for fair access to submarine cable capacity; access to network infrastructure and wholesale services regulations, including rules on how operators with significant market power (SMP) allow rivals to access their networks; and new regulations and guidelines on the conduct of market analyses. Going forward, the respective ministers now have two months to familiarise local parliaments and relevant regulatory bodies with the principles, purposes and provisions of the new legislation.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that ECTEL’s decision to enact new legislation stems from issues surrounding the 2015 USD3 billion regional merger of Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus Communications group. In March this year talks between ECTEL and the enlarged group – which trades under the Flow banner – ended without ‘amicable’ agreement. ECTEL is concerned about the potential anti-competition issues presented by the tie-up and has been working diligently with CWC since the merger announcement was made in November 2014. Having failed to secure agreement with CWC-Columbus on matters such as the minimum speed and price for entry-level broadband packages, maintaining an open internet, sharing of telecommunications infrastructure for existing and new entrants to provide new services, and protection provisions to ensure customers are not disadvantaged by new services and pricing, to be implemented following the merger, it began to consider alternative ways of resolving its concerns. Subsequently, last month – with the latest round of talks having broken down – ECTEL decided to declare the joint operations dominant in the sector and review the legislation to return some balance to the market.