Reg­u­la­tors con­fer­ence to tar­get roam­ing charges

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

The reg­u­la­tors must have a new role that looks for­ward for new sources of en­ergy and new tech­nolo­gies to come in.

TMONTEGO BAY, St James: HE OR­GAN­I­SA­TION Of Caribbean Util­ity Reg­u­la­tors (OOCUR) is ex­pected to ap­prove a pro­posal for the group to work with the Caribbean Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Union (CTU) in the re­gional push for a sin­gle in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT) space that could see the scrap­ping of roam­ing charges in two years’ time.

That is one of the ma­jor de­ci­sions ex­pected from the meet­ing of re­gional util­ity reg­u­la­tors for the 14th OOCUR con­fer­ence, which starts to­day in Mon­tego Bay, St James, ac­cord­ing to David Ged­des, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“The CTU has re­quested that the OOCUR col­lab­o­rate with them on cre­at­ing a sin­gle ICT space that the CARICOM sec­re­tariat was man­dated to de­velop over the next few years. The heads of gov­ern­ment say the re­gion should have a sin­gle ICT space, which would mean that when you move from Ja­maica to Trinidad and Tobago to Bar­ba­dos to St Lu­cia, one sim­ple thing is that you wouldn’t be pay­ing roam­ing rates be­cause you are mov­ing in a sin­gle tele­com space,” he said.

Ged­des added that he has al­ready met with the CTU’s sec­re­tary gen­eral and he ex­pects the OOCUR’s lead­er­ship to ap­prove the work­ing re­la­tion­ship at the con­fer­ence.

“The ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil of OOCUR [may] give a for­mal man­date to say we will un­der­take to work with the CTU to get the sin­gle ICT space cre­ated. That, again, is the pre­rog­a­tive of the board mem­bers. I would not want to pre-empt the board mem­bers, but fun­da­men­tally, I do not see any is­sues that would pre­vent us col­lab­o­rat­ing with the CTU,” ex­plained the for­mer di­rec­tor in Ja­maica’s Of­fice of Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tion (OUR).

SIN­GLE ICT SPACE ROAD MAP

At a spe­cial meet­ing of the Coun­cil for Trade and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment in Bar­ba­dos last month, CARICOM ICT min­is­ters en­dorsed the road map for the re­gion’s sin­gle ICT space.

The road map will go for ap­proval be­fore heads of gov­ern­ment at their in­ter­s­es­sional meet­ing next year, two years be­fore the 2019 dead­line for the hoped for im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The sin­gle ICT space will al­low for har­mon­i­sa­tion of the ICT and other leg­isla­tive frame­works, the re­moval of roam­ing charges, the en­cour­age­ment of dig­i­tal en­trepreneur­ship, equip­ping all cit­i­zens as dig­i­tal cit­i­zens, and look­ing at ICT fi­nan­cial so­lu­tions, among other re­gional ben­e­fits.

Den­sil Wil­liams, prof es­sor of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness at the Univer­sity of the West Indies, said the ICT is­sue, es­pe­cially its reg­u­la­tion, has to be quickly ad­dressed given the im­pli­ca­tions for re­gional eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment.

“ICT reg­u­la­tion is not the same thing as reg­u­la­tion for other util­i­ties. In Ja­maica, you have tele­coms which are reg­u­lated in some cases by the Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica, some cases the Spec­trum Man­age­ment Author­ity and in some cases the OUR. All of that needs to be stream­lined and come un­der one thing for a sin­gle reg­u­la­tor for the ICT sec­tor, and then you have an­other reg­u­la­tory arm deal­ing with util­i­ties which are sep­a­rate.”

He ar­gued that the ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion at the na­tional level would quicken the ef­forts to im­ple­ment the sin­gle ICT space and reg­u­la­tion for the re­gion.

MA­JOR ICT FIRMS

“We have ma­jor ICT firms that are pan-Caribbean, like Dig­i­cel and FLOW. A sin­gle reg­u­la­tor would ac­tu­ally en­hance the ef­fi­ciency with which they deal with reg­u­la­tion across the sec­tor. What you wouldn’t want is a dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tory struc­ture in Ja­maica ver­sus a dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tory struc­ture in the East­ern Caribbean,” said the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mona School of Busi­ness and Man­age­ment.

Mean­while, Richard Craw­ford, co-founder of the ad­vo­cacy group Cit­i­zens United to Re­duce Elec­tric­ity, said the re­gional reg­u­la­tors have to be­come more ac­tive in help­ing the Caribbean em­brace al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources such as wind and so­lar over crude oil.

“The reg­u­la­tors have to come in with strong rec­om­men­da­tions on reg­u­la­tions that have to en­cour­age the use of al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy. The process you go through to con­vert to al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy is a bit te­dious still. Yes, the reg­u­la­tors are there to en­sure cus­tomers get value for money, but that is the tra­di­tional role,” he said.

“The reg­u­la­tors must have a new role that looks for­ward for new sources of en­ergy and new tech­nolo­gies to come in.”

The con­fer­ence, be­ing held un­der the theme ‘Reg­u­la­tion: Cre­at­ing a Spec­trum of Op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Caribbean’, has a packed agenda that in­cludes dis­cus­sions on Bri­tain’s vote to leave the Euro­pean Union, and in­vest­ment in wa­ter and sewage and clean en­ergy.

Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness will de­liver the main ad­dress at this morn­ing’s open­ing of the con­fer­ence that’s ex­pected to be at­tended by more than 160 re­gional and in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tors and ex­perts.

RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A res­i­dent walks by sewage run­ning along Sev­enth Street, ad­ja­cent to the Trench Town Pri­mary School, in Kingston yes­ter­day. Res­i­dents have been com­plain­ing about the sewage, which they say has been run­ning down the street for weeks.

GED­DES

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