The five member states of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) – Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines – are moving forward with a wide-reaching telecoms reform programme, with a new Electronic Communications Bill expected to come before the parliaments of each member state for debate and subsequent passage into law. The new Electronic Communications (EC) Bill was approved on 18 March 2017 and 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.
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, ECTEL 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.
ECTEL was established on 4 May 2000, by a treaty signed in St George’s, Grenada, by the governments of the five Eastern Caribbean member states.