Single Regulatory Agency For Telecoms Sector By Year-End

Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell has said that the new Telecommunications Policy recently approved by Cabinet will seek to establish a single regulatory agency for the telecommunications sector and assist in achieving universal access across Jamaica.
The decision to have a single regulator, said Minister Paulwell, was thought best for the industry, as it was “unfair to have four agencies (Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), Spectrum Management Authority, the Broadcasting Commission and the Fair Trading Commission) regulating the industry”.
He noted that the establishment of a sole agency should take place by year-end and that currently, a place was being sought to house the new regulatory body.
Discussing the achievement of universal access, the Technology Minister observed that, “tremendous success” had been achieved in the area of voice telecommunication and that the focus in terms of universal service was now on data. “We want to ensure that all our people have access to the Internet regardless of where they live,” Minister Paulwell assured.
He said that a facility would be put in place to ensure funding for the deployment of these services to areas considered to be uneconomical.
Deputy Director General of the OUR, Courtney Jackson pointed out that “no more than 10 per cent of the 750,000 households in Jamaica (or approximately 100,000 persons) have access to the Internet”.
Mr. Jackson noted that the price of Internet access in Jamaica was very high when compared to other countries. He said that Cable and Wireless was the only operator that provided connection to the global Internet network or “Internet backbone” from Jamaica as it controlled the island’s fibre optic network. This, Mr. Jackson said was a significant factor in the high price for Internet access as Cable and Wireless had “the freedom to set prices”.
He observed that broadband facility, which allowed higher speed access to the Internet, was available at US$93.00 per month in Jamaica, compared to US$12.00 per month in Asia.
Mr. Jackson, mentioning that additional operators were needed to provide the service, said that GoTel and N5 provided Internet access through wireless technology after connection to the global Internet infrastructure was made possible with the final stage of liberalisation.
The Deputy Director General said that this fundamental infrastructure limitation was restricting Internet penetration in Jamaica and should be addressed, noting that the OUR was encouraging operators to invest in this area in order to satisfy the “critical and urgent social needs”.
In the meantime however, Minister Paulwell, though lamenting the high price for broadband, is hopeful that this will soon be a reality observing that few cable operators are forming themselves into a conglomerate to provide Internet access through their cable network.
Additionally, a co-location facility or ‘Telecoms Hotel’ known as Jamaica Network Access Point (JNAP) will be officially launched shortly, allowing operators to share overheads among themselves and to provide greater convenience in interconnection of networks at lower cost.
The facility provides interconnection of fibre, voice lines and Internet bandwidth going to and from major carriers such as Cable and Wireless, Digicel and Centennial. It is designed to connect several carriers together to originate and terminate (provide a terminal for incoming calls) voice traffic to and from Jamaica.
This facility, Mr. Jackson noted was available in developed markets and was a first for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

JIS Social