St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is the second Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) member state to introduce new legislation governing the telecommunications sector.
This follows the safe passage of the Electronic Communications Bill during the sitting of the House of Assembly on Tuesday, October 24.
The legislation was tabled by Prime Minister and Minister of Information, Dr Ralph Gonsalves and replaces the Telecommunications Act which was passed by Parliament in 2000.
In his contribution to the debate on Tuesday, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves thanked ECTEL for their management methods in creating public awareness about the Electronic Communications Bill.
In 2009, ECTEL signalled the need for a revision of existing legislation to better address the emergence of new services and challenges within the telecommunications sector.
At that time, the sub-regional entity initiated discussions that led to the finalising of a bill in 2019.
The Finance Minister said the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 eruptions of La Soufriere Volcano, and the coming on stream of a World Bank initiative, “The Digital Transformation Project”, delayed the passage of the new legislation in the Parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Electronic Communications Bill aims to strengthen customer service delivery; establish a dispute tribunal to address issues affecting stakeholders; introduce stronger penalties for breach of legislation and clauses; and promote fairness, transparency and accountability between providers and regulators.
The legislation also seeks to improve conditions and terms for issuance of licenses, facilitate production of content and the monetization of content across internet-based platforms; broaden the scope of telecommunications to include contemporary electronic communications methodologies and preserve an open internet and the concept of neutrality.
In 2021, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis became the first ECTEL member state to pass the new Bill (API)