By Caribbean Telecommunications Union
The objectives of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s (CTU) 5th Regulators’ Forum, held on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th September during CTU ICT Week 2021, were well defined:
- To solicit stakeholders’ views on the requirements for establishing a Single Caribbean Regulatory Authority or a more harmonised legal and regulatory framework and mutual acceptance of cross border rulings;
- To encourage a multi-stakeholder discussion on what improvements are required in the present regulatory environment to advance meaningful connectivity and digital transformation;
- To identify strategies to improve the maturity classification of Caribbean Regulatory Authorities; and
- To solicit views on how the various stakeholders can advance the CARICOM Single ICT Space implementation and eliminate Roaming Charges among CARICOM Countries serviced by licensed operators in Caribbean Markets.
The responses from the senior level cadre of sector specialists and consultants were frank, thought-provoking, passionate, and to a large extent, harmonised.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, Telecommunications Development Bureau, International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Elena Scaramuzzi of Cullen International; and Sofie Maddens, Head of the Regulatory and Market Environment Division, ITU, in their keynote addresses, spoke of global regulatory trends.
Later, moderators, Dr Kim Mallalieu, Senior Lecturer at UWI and Sandra Sealy, CTU Consultant, proficiently drew from the panellists their views on “Building a more Responsive Regional Regulatory Environment and the realities and ramifications of creating a Single ICT Space in the Caribbean.
In a presentation that pulled no punches, but in her view, exposed some hard-hitting truths, Dr Annalee Babb, Founder and CEO of Intersections, established “The Perfect Storm” of current factors which threaten “catastrophic change for the regional ICT/telecoms sector”. Dr Babb also posited that the current pace of change in the region for actualising the CARICOM Heads of Government directives for Single ICT Space was inadequate and akin to an analogue trajectory in what is now a new digitalised world.
Panellists Ryan Johnson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, Viasat; Kenva Williams, Director General, Telecommunications Commission, Turks and Caicos Islands; David Geary, General Counsel, Digicel; David Cox, Chairman, CANTO; Opal Neil, Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Cable and Wireless; Mark Reynolds, VP, Legal & Regulatory Affairs, GTT; and Kwesi Prescod, Business Consultant, TSTT, agreed on the need for a Caribbean Single Regulatory Authority within the Single ICT Space.
However, current issues of a fragmented ICT legal framework, onerous rules, taxation, fees and licensing, Big Tech competition, a non-business-focussed outlook by Governments mitigated against investments in the sector.
Despite the expressed challenges, what was strongly evident among the panellists, is the pressing need to steadily move forward on the path of digital transformation of the Caribbean region.
David Geary, General Counsel Caribbean, Digicel, suggested that a working group be set up among stakeholders, to put in place within a short period of about three (3) months, a model to resolve some of the matters ventilated at the Forum in the absence of a centralised Single Regulatory Authority.
Ms Nievia Ramsundar, Executive Director, CARICOM Competition Commission, identified the long lead time required to have national laws reflect regional agreements. She highlighted it took almost eight (8) years to establish the CARICOM Competition Commission. Yet today, many of the CARICOM countries have not amended their laws appropriately.
Sofie Maddens, ITU, explored with the regulators the need to develop cross-sector regulatory collaboration as ICT was pervasive across all economic and social sectors. Collaboration was necessary. She pointed out that ITU considers these G5 regulations and that Caribbean Regulators need to adopt these mechanisms as they seek to increase investments in the sector and promote innovative digital solutions to improve the lives of Caribbean citizens.
The day’s events concluded with examining the strategies the National Regulatory Authorities can adopt to achieve the vision of a Single Caribbean ICT Regulatory Authority.