Minister hoping for improvements in the telecommunications sector
November 9, 2021
Minister hoping for improvements in the telecommunications sector

THIS COUNTRY’S telecommunications minister, Camillo Gonsalves, is hoping that new legislation and the introduction of competition within the sector will result in improvement of service for customers nationwide.

Gonsalves, who also is this country’s Minister of Finance was speaking on WEFM on October 31, where he responded to a question posed about the status of the telecommunications industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

He revealed that legislation was drafted by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), the regional regulator for telecoms, and that this law is expected to be taken to Parliament early in 2022.

“I have given a commitment to the cabinet that very, very early in the new year, we’re going to be… bringing that legislation to Parliament, which will have a very robust customer service and customer redress type of mechanism there which will allow people, who for example, are paying for 100 megabits, but when they do the speed test at home, they only get in 25 megabits, that they can get redress for this sort of activity,” the telecommunications minister said, while speaking on the “Issues at Hand” programme.

He added that the law will also make accommodations for persons to be compensated, or not have to pay their bill in full in cases where the downtime of their service is below the understood threshold.

“We are going to pass hopefully in January. But by the latest in February, we’re going to pass new legislation that will give the regulators a lot more teeth, in terms of dealing with the things that most people complain about when they complain about the internet service in St. Vincent and Grenadines, and that is going to happen very soon,” he outlined.

“The legislation is complete. There was a lot of resistance from the providers in terms of what is in there. But I think ECTEL has managed to hold the line on most of the issues that are important to consumers and we should see that legislation very well in the New Year. And that way, if even if you don’t get your provider to complain about problems, you can get your regulator, and your regulator will be able to follow up on those problems as well for you,” Gonsalves said.

Under the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP) project, fibre cables were installed in St Vincent and the Grenadines to facilitate a faster internet infrastructure.

Gonsalves revealed that a player in the private sector is on the verge of utilising this technology to roll out their own highspeed broadband service, which will more than likely be immune to poor connectivity during poor weather conditions.

“I don’t want to do their promotional work for them, it is a private sector company, but quite fast and quite competitive in terms of price. And I hope that once that second player gets into the market in earnest, it will drive reforms and innovations in the dominant player in the market. I think that would happen,” he added.

The telecommunications minister expressed hope that the introduction of competition in this part of the market “will drive some innovation and some improvements in the broadband space”.

Another important aspect of telecommunications that the government is hoping to tap into is e-governance.

According to Gonsalves, a “digital transformation” will be one of this government’s focus in at least the next two budgets, in an effort to bring about “major reforms in how the government does business with citizens”.

“We want to make it so that a citizen will be able to access their government, to do most of the things that people currently line up to do, will be able to access their government via an app, via telephone, via their laptop, and do things like pay their taxes, renew their driver’s licence, renew their passport, register births and deaths, register property, and the like,” he said.

“And those those type of activities we think will boost the ease of doing business in the country, and will reduce some of the frustrations that people have when they’re trying to interact with the government…we think all of those things are pointing in the same direction, which is improved service for Vincentians,” the telecommunications minister added.