I asked these questions of the Cryptocurrency expert panel that I was moderating at the 28th ICT Open Forum of the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, at their headquarters in Barataria on March 22, 2018.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.
Raul Echeberría, vice president of global engagement at the Internet Society, described T&T as “very active” in high-level international debates on issues related to the governance of the global Internet.
“ISOC has a long history of working in the Caribbean, and the Trinidad and Tobago community is vibrant in the international community. There are people here who are very active in international organisations that work to promote the open development and evolution of the Internet for the benefit of everyone around the world,” he said.
Echeberría was speaking with the T&T Guardian at the opening day of the organisation’s INET TT Forum, held at the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) office in Barataria on October 8 and 9.
The wide range of meeting participants bore out the ISOC executive’s words. Represented at the event were Packet Clearing House (PCH), the Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC), and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), which is headquartered in Port of Spain.
Echeberría also identified the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) multi-stakeholder fora and the International Telecommunications Union’s Internet Governance Forum as examples of the far-reaching involvement of T&T nationals in the international debate.
INET TT was ISOC's first INET Forum in the Caribbean. The local and regional technical fraternity's high level of participation in international debates must continue, Echeberría said, to ensure that Caribbean users of the Internet continue to enjoy open access to the Internet and freedom of online expression.
He warned that in T&T and other countries, political interests could threaten the basic principles of freedom of information and freedom of expression.
“There are some challenges from the political side. There are some governments that think that they should have more control of the Internet, even motivated by very understandable objectives like to fight cybercrime. But we continue pushing for an Internet that is free for everybody so that access to information is not restricted and freedom of expression is not repressed,” he said.
“We think that the Internet should be a tool for improving the way that people exercise human rights.”
Sebastián Bellagamba, ISOC regional bureau director for Latin America and The Caribbean, also highlighted the importance of keeping the evolution of the Internet open.
“ISOC is not pursuing technology for the sake of technology. We strongly believe in the capability of the Internet to improve people’s quality of life,” Bellagamba said.
“When we have national INETs, like this one in Trinidad and Tobago, our goal is to bring some expertise from ISOC and the international technical community but also to learn from the local community, to enrich the global debate on relevant issues such as Internet governance. That’s the way that we believe in moving things forward. It’s the Internet model,” he said.
About 50 stakeholders from different sectors gathered for the two-day event. Beyond the technical community, the event brought together government officials, academic researchers, non-governmental organisations and private sector companies.
Participants used the forum to find out more about important technology-related issues such as Internet governance, online identity and privacy, cyber security, mobile broadband connectivity, and the deployment of the new Internet Protocol (IPv6).
The recent establishment of an Internet exchange point (IXP) in T&T is a necessary step in strengthening the country’s local Internet economy. But it is not enough, says Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House (PCH).
“The launch of the local internet exchange point, TTIX, is definitely a positive step for internet users and in the development of the Trinidad and Tobago internet economy. However, the launch of an IX is not enough to guarantee its success,” Wooding said, speaking with the T&T Guardian after taking part in a panel discussion on IXPs as part of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) INET TT Forum, hosted by the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) on October 8 and 9.
“Now that the task of getting the local IX up and running is over, focus must shift immediately to the development of local applications and content to take advantage of the availability of a local exchange point.”
PCH has been involved the development of more than two-thirds of the world’s IXPs, and Wooding has been actively involved in IXP deployments across the region. To be truly successful, he said, exchange points have to have a clear plan for attracting local and international content providers and encouraging local Internet innovation to take advantage of the local exchange.
“Deliberate steps must now be taken to encourage local organisations to build local apps, create local content and deploy local services. A new set of local stakeholders must now be mobilised to steward the process of translating the promise of a local IX into the reality of a local Internet economy."
The four-member INET TT panel discussion highlighted the urgent need for significant upgrades to critical Internet infrastructure across the region. It included Internet Society (ISOC) representatives Jane Coffin and Christian O'Flaherty, who emphasised the importance of IXPs globally in improving the resilience, efficiency and security of local networks.
Setting up an IXP is not technically difficult and is not necessarily costly, Coffin said, but it does require collaboration and cooperation, at times among parties who are otherwise competing in the same market.
In the audience were dozens of regional and local technology experts gathered at the TATT office in Barataria for the two-day forum, which was also broadcast globally to a live streaming audience online.
Called INET TT, the event brought together private sector representatives, government officials, academic researchers and members of the local and international technical community. Present were delegates from the regional Internet registry for Latin America and the Caribbean (LACNIC), the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the T&T Network Information Centre (TTNIC).
The fourth speaker on the INET TT panel on IXPs was Kurleigh Prescod, vice president of network services at Columbus Communications Trinidad. Prescod, who is the chairman of T&T’s recently launched IXP, shared perspectives from his personal experience of working with colleagues from competing ISPs to set up the local exchange point.
Called TTIX, the new IXP brought together seven of the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs): Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago, Digicel, Massy Communications, Open Telecom, Greendot, Lisa Communications and Flow.
“TTIX is a limited liability company formed by all existing Internet service providers in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Cris Seecharan, TATT CEO. He described the TTIX launch as “one of TATT’s major contributions to the country’s Internet landscape.”
The next step, he said, was to work with TTIX in seeking to establish a root server for the IXP.
Vashty Maharaj, an official from the ministry of science and technology delivering remarks on behalf of the minister, described IXPs as “a vital part of the Internet ecosystem.”
"TTIX is intended to make the exchange of local traffic more cost effective and contribute to the development of a robust domestic ICT sector,” she said.
The ministry applauded the ISPs for working with TATT to bring better and more affordable broadband Internet connectivity to all local Internet users.
“We want our people to experience all of the social and economic benefits of becoming active participants in the digital society and economy,” she said. The ministry applauded the ISPs for working with TATT to bring better and more affordable broadband Internet connectivity to all local Internet users.
There are over 350 IXPs around the world, of which nine are in the Caribbean. Among the territories in the region actively engaged in setting up IXPs are Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
T&T has become the latest Caribbean nation to launch an Internet exchange point (IXP). Called TTIX, the local IXP brings together seven of the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs). Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), Digicel, Massy Communications, Open Telecom, Greendot, Lisa Communications and Flow have signed on to the local exchange point.
TTIX connects the ISPs to a special network switch that is physically located at the Fujitsu data center in Barataria.
The new exchange point will give the ISPs a cost-effective way to connect their customers to locally destined content and services.
The chairman of TTIX is Kurleigh Prescod of Columbus Communications, who described the launch as “a very significant milestone.”
Globally, IXPs have been shown to improve the resilience, efficiency and security of local networks.
Prescod said the new IXP will improve local Internet performance and “act as an incentive to attract content providers, such as Netflix, Akamai and Google, to establish a point of presence in Trinidad and Tobago.”
There are over 350 IXPs around the world. T&T became the ninth in the Caribbean, joining British Virgin Islands (BVIX), Curacao (AMS-IX), Dominica (DANIX), Grenada (GREX), Haiti, St Maarten (OCIX), St Lucia (SLIX) and the Dominican Republic.
Jean-Paul Dookie, executive vice president of government business for Fujitsu described the new exchange point as “an essential building block towards the development of the Trinidad and Tobago knowledge economy.”
The promise of a better local Internet experience, data security and commercial opportunities has been one of the greatest incentives to establishing IXPs across the Caribbean.
“Tremendous progress has been made in sensitizing the region to the importance of building out national Internet infrastructure. Now we are seeing the fruit,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).
Lewis described the TTIX launch as a direct result years of education, outreach and ongoing efforts by the CTU to promote the proliferation of IXPs in the Caribbean. The CTU’s collaboration with international organisations such as Packet Clearing House, the Internet Society (ISOC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has played a key role in raising awareness of the importance of local IXPs in T&T and across the region.
Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are actively engaged in setting up IXPs.
From T&T Guardian
Secondary school teachers and students will be immersed in a day of technology gadgets, spacemen and science experiments when the BrightPath TechLink program comes to T&T on September 27. “TechLink combines hands-on technology training with fun-filled creative activity, wrapped into a values-based learning experience that we believe can benefit participant for life,” BrightPath Foundation executive director Bevil Wooding told T&T Guardian. In the all-day event, students will use tablets, micro-computers, drones and robots to conduct special experiments that reinforce basic principles of science, technology, engineering and math. Since TechLink’s launch in Grenada in November 2013, over 400 persons, including educators, small business entrepreneurs, young people and parents in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Saint Lucia, have taken part in the initiative. But for the T&T edition, there is a twist. Capitalising on the interest in space experiments following NorthGate College’s success in the 2014 Cubes In Space experiment design global contest, TechLink Trinidad will focus on a suite of technology-based science experiments, under the theme “exploration: learning, developing, innovating.” “Together with our collaborative partner iDoodleSoftware, we will be hosting NASA astronaut Dr Roger Crouch in Trinidad for the TechLink event,” Wooding said. “The goal is to produce a context in which education is more engaging and interactive. Participants will be get to be young explorers for the day. They will split into groups to tackle real-world problems and use technology and science to come up with solutions,” he said. Corporate sponsors include regional broadband-provider Columbus Communications and the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. Rhea Yaw Ching, corporate vice president of sales and marketing at Columbus, said the partnership with BrightPath is part of Columbus’ wider commitment to investing in the communities it serves. “As more affordable high-speed Internet access becomes a reality across the region, Columbus is actively looking for opportunities to help users at every level understand how to make the most of it.” TechLink Trinidad will include an Educators Forum, designed to equip secondary school teachers with know-how and practical tools to use technology in the classroom. “While the students enjoy the chance to go deep into digital content creation, teachers will learn new and better ways to use technology in the nation’s classroom. This is technology meeting the real world. The goal here is to give a real sense of the possibility of technology being applied to Caribbean education," Wooding said. TechLink Trinidad will be held at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies on September 27.