Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), Hon. Phillip Paulwell, said that the government is moving to establish a “super regulatory body” to effectively monitor the telecommunications sector.
The functions of the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and the Broadcasting Commission will be merged to create this super agency, he informed.
Mr. Paulwell was addressing members of the newly appointed SMA board during a meeting on Friday (March 16) at the agency’s head offices downtown Kingston.
“We do have a number of regulatory systems in place, all operating almost at silos, and creating, I believe, unnecessary bureaucracy for the private sector. We have the OUR that is ostensibly the lead regulator in the industry, we have the SMA, and then there’s the Broadcasting Commission.
“What we are going to do, and it’s now policy, is to merge and to collapse the functions of the OUR, SMA and the Broadcasting Commission into one super body that is going to be the high-powered ICT (Information Communications and Technology) regulator for all aspects of the infrastructure,” the Minister said.
He informed that the Ministry will be spearheading the formulation of the legislation that will make the body a reality.
“But, we need now to make sure that as we develop the legislation… it doesn’t take us two or three years after that for us to have the body up and running,” he stated, informing that he has set a timeline of 18 months to complete the process.
Minister Paulwell told the SMA board members that they are now charged with the mandate to make the merge a reality.
“I believe you are well appointed to start to fashion the transition that will see the single regulator embraced within the physical structure of SMA. We will come up with a name, very shortly, that will be the name for the three companies,” he said.
He acknowledged that the task will not be easy “but, it is now a reality, so it means that you will have to embrace (OUR) along with the Broadcasting Commission, to work out that transition. It means that you will have to revamp your own organisation; you will have to spell out in great detail that transition path."
The Technology Minister told the SMA board members that one of his main objectives is to ensure that Jamaica quickly regains its position as the leading ICT destination in this Hemisphere, and to re-establish the SMA as the centre of excellence in relation to wireless services in the Caribbean.
“We want this organisation to be the pre-eminent agency in the region that has the capabilities to share information, while it develops its own expertise,” he remarked.
The newly appointed board members of the SMA are: Chairman, Chris Honeywell; Deputy Chairman, Dr. Denzil Williams; Sophia Fraiser-Binns; Adrian
St. Louis; Desmond Palmer; Mario Mitchell; Danielle Hickling; Shynelle Anderson; Pierre Shirley; Andrew Geohagen; Marlene DeMercado; and Olivia Leigh Campbell.
The SMA, established in 2000, is the national regulator for the radio frequency spectrum and is an advisory body to the Minister with principal responsibility for telecommunications.
The SMA works closely with other related regulatory agencies, including OUR,the Broadcasting Commission, the Fair Trading Commission(FTC), and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), in formulating policy and legislation in relation to the communications industry.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter