The Caribbean Telecommunications Union is collaborating with the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) on a campaign to increase Caribbean participation in the global Internet governance ecosystem.Read More
Can telecommunications regulators from across the Caribbean see beyond their national interests and present a unified regional response to a common challenge? The recent announcement by Cable and Wireless (CWC) of its proposed US$3 billion acquisition of Columbus International could prompt them to try. If approved, the deal will make CWC the Caribbean’s largest wholesale and retail broadband service provider. But the acquisition requires regulatory approval in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados.
Against this backdrop, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is convening a special meeting of regulators, economists and industry experts, in an effort to forge region-wide consensus around the regulatory issues arising from the proposed deal. The CTU Secretariat hopes, after the two-day meeting, to be able to advise Caribbean Community (Caricom) heads on measures to be taken to mitigate against the expected fallout from the CWC acquisition.
National regulators, such as the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), and sub-regional regulators, such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), Jamaica's Office of Utility Regulation, Barbados' Fair Trading Commission and the Bahamas' Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, have been invited to take part in the high-level meeting, alongside invited representatives from the CTU member states.
Earlier this week, ECTEL issued a statement warning that the proposed CWC-Columbus deal could result in a negative impact on competition, and reduce choice by consumers of both services and service providers.
The sub-regional body said increased monopolisation could “erode the gains made by the liberalisation and create challenges for the entrance of new service providers.”
Both CWC and Columbus could be in breach of their licenses if they engage in activities, which can unfairly prevent, restrict, or distort competition, ECTEL said, adding that it would work with other Caribbean regulators to advise member governments on the pressing issue.
The announcement of CWC-Columbus deal, on November 6, followed a joint venture entered into by both companies in late 2013, through which they agreed to share regional subsea fibre assets. News of the development sparked concerns that the deal could return several Caribbean territories into monopoly or near-monopoly markets for telephony, cable TV and broadband services.
The upcoming CTU regulatory forum, which takes place on December 10 to 11, will also seek to address other relevant issues, such as the removal of voice and data roaming charges, number portability, over-the-top services, open reporting and social investment by telecom providers. The need for stronger, more coordinated regional regulation practices was highlighted in July of this year, after mobile phone users in Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were affected by a move by major regional mobile providers LIME (a CWC subsidiary) and Digicel to block access to OTT telephony services—including several popular Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications.
Caribbean leaders will meet in Suriname this week to push forward the region’s technology development agenda. The South American country will host an executive meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) on April 8th and 9th at the Hotel Krasnapolsky, Paramaribo.
The CTU’s executive council is made up of permanent secretaries from ministries with responsibility for telecommunications in the CTU member states. The council has oversight responsibility for the work of the CTU secretariat.
At the meeting, Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the CTU, will present to the executive council chairman her report on the performance of the organisation and the progress of its recent and ongoing projects.
Cleveland Thomas, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) area representative for the Caribbean, and Albert Daniels, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) global stakeholder engagement manager for the Caribbean, are also expected to make presentations at the high-level meeting.
The CTU was established by the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1989 in Nassau, The Bahamas. The latest executive council comes on the heels of the 25th intersessional meeting of the conference of CARICOM heads of government, a top-level meeting which underscored the significant role of regional leadership in designing and implementing the Caribbean’s technology development agenda.
One highlight of the executive council meeting will be a video presentation by leadership development expert, Dr. Farid Youssef of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Dr Youssef will identify drivers for effective leadership in the Caribbean context.
Managing Caribbean Spectrum
The two-day event is sandwiched in a weeklong series of regional technology development meetings hosted by the government of Suriname, through its Ministry of Transport, Communications and Tourism, under the leadership of Minister Falisie Josef Pinas.
On April 7, Pinas delivered welcome remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Spectrum Management Steering Committee (SMSC), a multi-country team of senior government policy makers and industry regulators.
The inaugural SMSC meeting comes as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is rolling out its Harmonised Caribbean Spectrum Planning and Management project across its fourteen member countries. The project, which was formally launched in Montego Bay, Jamaica in December 2013, is being undertaken with technical support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Compete Caribbean. It aims to harmonise practices and procedures for spectrum management across the countries.
The Spectrum Management Task Force (SMTF), a multi-country, multi-stakeholder technical committee of government, regulatory, private sector, academic and civil society personnel, held its first workshop in February. Conducted in collaboration with the ITU and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the inaugural SMTF workshop focused on emergency telecommunications.
On April 7, the SMSC started building on the work of the SMTF. The SMSC is aiming to develop a regional frequency allocation table, which is intended to facilitate the adoption of common frequencies for disaster management and emergency telecommunications.
On the last two conference days, April 10th and 11th, the CTU will conduct a pair of workshops designed to highlight adaptive technologies available to deaf and blind people. Presentations will focus on ways in which people with visual and auditory impairments can use the Internet to make the most of opportunities for education, training and employment. Some sessions will highlight specific devices that can help people overcome the loss of sight and hearing, using popular platforms such as Apple’s iOs and Google’s Android.
GRANDE ANSE, Grenada - A regional workshop recently held in Grenada encouraged local entrepreneurs to leverage cutting-edge technology to develop world-class products and services which address challenges facing Caribbean society.
The workshop, held at the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, Grande Anse on March 24th and 25th, was part of a broader World Bank-funded initiative called CARCIP, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program, coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).
“The underlying philosophy of the CTU’s ongoing regional workshop series is that the very same conditions that present severe challenges for Grenada and other Caribbean islands, are also creating unique opportunities for the region,” said Junior Mc Intyre, CARCIP Project Coordinator for the CTU, delivering welcome remarks at the opening ceremony.
The job of Caribbean innovators, Mc Intyre said, is to look past the challenges and discern the opportunities. Lead facilitator for the CTU CARCIP workshop, Bevil Wooding, underscored that reality.
“The survival of the region’s economies depends on our ability leverage modern technology to produce, compete and excel in the global environment,” said Wooding, who is an Internet Strategist with U.S.-based non-profit, Packet Clearing House.
Gregory Bowen, Minister for Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and Community Development, described the workshop as an opportunity to deepen the Government’s ongoing thrust to develop the country’s ICT sector, in order to improve quality of life and create jobs in the local economy.
“Ultimately, the investment being made by the Government of Grenada is not just in the upgrade of the physical equipment but in the improvement of the quality of the lives of our citizens. Our goal is to ensure that all of our people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique benefit from the development of ICT infrastructure,” Bowen said.
In March, a historic ICT Bridge connecting Grenada’s sister isles Carriacou and Petite Martinique to the global Internet, was formally launched at the Resource Centre in Hillsborough.
Jacinta Joseph, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, echoed Bowen’s emphasis on the dynamic link between infrastructure development to human development.
“Through CARCIP, we are aiming to advance the development of an ICT-enabled services industry in the Caribbean region by increasing access to regional broadband networks,” Joseph said.
Grenada is not alone in recognising the significance of ICT to national and regional development. At the 25th intersessional meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 10-11, Caribbean governments reaffirmed that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) plays a crucial role in advancing all regional development initiatives. CARICOM plans to focus over the next two years on developing a Single ICT Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“The creation of a Single ICT Space within our community should be pursued vigorously in our efforts to bring technology to the people,” said CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Addressing the inter-sessional meeting, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who holds responsibility for ICT in CARICOM, issued a call for the region to work together to develop appropriate regional ICT development strategies and programmes.
The work of implementing ICT development policy objectives falls largely on CTU, which plays a significant role in coordinating the region’s response to technology-related challenges through various public education activities, targeting ministers with responsibility for telecommunications, Internet Service Providers, regulators and policy-makers in the ICT sector, as well as end-users and consumers of technology.
Through extensive regional public education activities, such as its Caribbean ICT Roadshow, Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, and Strategic Ministerial Seminar series, the CTU has established a track record of creating awareness across various sectors of Caribbean society of the importance of ICT and Internet Governance to the region.
Against that backdrop, the World Bank approached the CTU to regionally coordinate CARCIP, working closely with the governments of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Grenada, and alongside regional organisations such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN).
Launched in June 2013 at the Crown Ballroom of the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, CARCIP aims to improve the efficiency of regional telecommunications infrastructure development in the Eastern Caribbean and ultimately, throughout the wider Caribbean. Through the World Bank’s International Development Association, the project was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU.
The Grenada workshop is the third in the CTU’s ongoing series. The two-day event brings together local professionals in the field of telecommunications and regional experts in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), entrepreneurship, leadership development and innovation.
Among the workshop presenters are Dr Farid Youssef, an expert in neuroscience based in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine; Norman Gibson, an expert in rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Eric Nurse, ICT Director for the Government of Grenada; Glenda Joseph-Dennis, an independent Business Development Consultant specialising in leadership and organisational development; and Joseph I. Gill, the software developer and entrepreneur behind mobile technology startup TopItUp.TV.
The first CTU CARCIP Innovation Workshop was held at the Bay Gardens Resort, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on February 10 and 11, while the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines event was held at the Buccament Bay resort on February 26 and 27.
The South School on Internet Governance, or SSIG, is a programme to prepare Caribbean and Latin American participants to actively participate in international meetings that determine the future of the Internet.Read More
WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao - Failing to convert brilliant business ideas to real returns is costing online entrepreneurs big time. That’s why in the Caribbean, stakeholders are starting to pay closer attention to external factors impacting their bottom line.
One such factor is the underdevelopment of critical Internet infrastructure in the region. Across the Caribbean, local Internet service providers (ISPs) are paying overseas carriers to exchange local Internet traffic between their local networks. This is an unnecessarily costly and inefficient way of handling in-country exchange of Internet traffic. And naturally, that expense and inconvenience are borne by the end-user.
But there is a better way, according to Kurleigh Prescod, Vice President of Network and ICT Services for the southern Caribbean at Columbus Communications, a major player in the regional telecommunications landscape.
Speaking at the 9th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (CIGF) held at the Curacao World Trade Centre on September 11, Prescod acknowledged that the region was heavily dependent on foreign infrastructure for Internet access, especially U.S. infrastructure. But he shared valuable insights on how Columbus was responding to the regional challenge.
Citing the example of Grenada, Prescod identified the island’s Internet Exchange Point (IXP) as a key component of the critical infrastructure that allowed Columbus to work with other ISPs to exchange local Internet traffic between their networks without cost. Through the IXP, Internet traffic originating in Grenada now terminates on other local networks without having to go through lengthy, expensive, international routes, he said.
In Curacao, Columbus joined that island’s IXP (AMS-IX Caribbean), and is now working to support the Exchange’s caching operations.
“There are two sides to caching,” Prescod explained. “One is the caching box, which provides the content to the users. But you also have to get that content. So we are actually engaged in Curacao to provide that foreign content for those providers, cache it, and then serve it to the users.
“So not only are we a member of the AMS-IX, but we also serve the global Internet to all of the caching boxes in Curacao today. In the interest of supporting the development of the broadband economy here in Curacao, we thought it was important we do so.”
Prescod is also one of the board members of a third Caribbean Internet Exchange recently incorporated as a non-profit company in Trinidad and Tobago. And he is hopeful that the southernmost Caribbean island will be next in line to successfully establish a fully functional Exchange.
“At this time, we’ve only gotten consensus around seven Internet Service Providers that there should be an Exchange,” he said. “We’ve sort of decided on a technical model and we’re looking over the two to six months to implement that model.”
Prescod was speaking as part of a multinational, multi-stakeholder panel discussion in the morning session of the CIGF. Alongside him were Nico Scheper (Netherlands), Craig Nesty (Dominica) and Bevil Wooding (Trinidad and Tobago). Their discussion emphasised the essential link between the performance of critical Internet infrastructure and the stimulation of the Internet economy in the region.
“Establishing a local IXP can bring many benefits to Caribbean citizens, including faster domestic Internet traffic exchange and a more resilient local network,” said Wooding in a post-event interview.
He added, “IXPs are a critical component of the local Internet economy, but they’re not the only component.”
As a whole, the Caribbean region is served by only six IXPs. Apart from Curacao, they are in the British Virgin Islands, Haiti, Grenada, St Maarten and Dominica.
Stakeholders from the Caribbean and Latin America gathered in Curacao to engage discuss and develop policies and structures for regional Internet governance. The CIGF, which was organised by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union at the request of the CARICOM Secretariat, emphasises a multi-stakeholder approach to the development of regional Internet Governance policy, drawing on the expertise and experiences of policy makers, regulators, service providers, content providers, consumer groups, academia, professionals, end users and other Internet interest groups in the region.