Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 18, 2016 (SKNIS): The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) recently concluded two important engagements in St. Kitts and Nevis, namely, a Consultative Forum and the seventy-seventh meeting of the ECTEL Board of Directors, in an aim to discuss current issues relating to telecommunications in Member Countries.

ECTEL was established on May 04, 2000, by Treaty signed in St. George’s, Grenada, by the governments of five Eastern Caribbean States – the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. ECTEL is the regulatory body for telecommunications in its Member States. It is made up of three components – A Council of Ministers, a regional Directorate and a National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in each Member State.

In an interview with the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) on Thursday, November 17, Embert Charles, Managing Director of ECTEL, said that the members meet periodically as a technical team to go through a number of issues to find common grounds, as harmonization is underlying the relationship between the five ECTEL Member Countries.

“In the last two days in St. Kitts, the forum addressed some specific issues. We came together to look at the issue of consumer education and public awareness,” said the managing director. “Because we think it is necessary [that] while some of the education and awareness activities have to be done at a national level, there is need for some regional cohesion in sending the same message out about ECTEL and NTRC’s to all citizens of the ECTEL Member States. There were issues related to the impact of the Cable and Wireless merger on the respective countries. It is not a situation in St. Kitts and Nevis in particular but it has some implications for the other countries.”

He noted that a number of other pertinent issues were also discussed including issues related to universal service, noting that the plan is to change the laws on universal service; managing the spectrum – which is the airwaves used by broadcasters and telecom providers to deliver services, as well as the issues of increased awareness of customers and how to file and or resolve complaints in the respective countries. He said that there needs to be some form of increased education on the way in which complaints are filed and resolved.

“There is also the issue now of Cable Television service providers sometimes changing prices. We need to get to understand the problems and encourage and educate consumers on how best they can exercise the powers they have under the law to get their matters resolved,” said Mr. Charles.

Mr. Charles said that that the forum was successful and members were able to come up with solutions for the issues discussed.

“In the case of the public education campaign a strategy was developed. There were some key issues that were identified as requiring urgent attention,” he said. “On the issue of managing the spectrum we looked at some options in terms of different software for managing the spectrum and some recommendations came out which would be taken to the board of directors for their approval and eventually implementation in each of the countries.”

The managing director said that the forum formed part of the Authority’s planning mechanism with ECTEL and NTRC’s. The NTRC’s operate as individual entities, and ECTEL, with its headquarters in St. Lucia, operates as one, but there are a lot of areas where all involved must work together.