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 launched a series of roadshows across the region to promote its new Electronic Communications (EC) Bill which was approved on 18 March 2017. The EC Bill is designed to 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. It will replace the Telecommunications Act when promulgated.
The legal and regulatory team of the ECTEL will continue a series of roadshows in member states this week, with the aim of explaining the details of the main provisions of the Bill and accompanying regulations, and for ECTEL to understand the key elements and concerns of stakeholders and service providers. Among its provisions, the new Bill is committed to net neutrality, which enables open access to the internet.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the Council of Ministers approved the new legislation in October 2016. 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, in September 2016 – 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.