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Regional consumers still feeling the pinch of roaming telecom charges


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Regional consumers still feeling the pinch of roaming telecom charges
Caricom secretary general, Dr Carla Barnett - FP

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Consumers in Caricom countries are still to fully benefit from a reduction in telecommunications roaming charges.

Caricom secretary general Dr Carla Barnett said an agreement was signed earlier this year with two of the telecommunications providers in the Caribbean, but there has been little progress on the matter.

“We have the unfortunate reality that our telecommunications infrastructure in the region, which controls the internet services, are legacy systems from the same European owners who are now dropping the charges among each other in Europe,” Barnett told the audience attending the Owen S Arthur Distinguished Lecture Series on Monday night at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill.

“But when we get around the table with the subsidiaries in the region, it is really very difficult to negotiate to remove the charges.”

She described the situation “as an ongoing conversation”, adding “there is a little bit of progress that was made…I am advised among themselves an agreement to reduce the charges not to eliminate totally”.

“The objective is to eliminate totally, but as I say, the owners of those telecommunications companies in each of our member states, they negotiate with each of our member states their arrangements differently with each our member states,” Barnett added.

“The solution to that is likely to be a single regulatory mechanism that would determine that across the region. That’s a complex situation yet to be negotiated.”

Caricom moved one step closer towards the elimination of roaming charges within the Caribbean in February when they signed the St George’s Declaration on Roaming with two of the telecommunications providers in the region.

Caricom said then that the agreement signalled the beginning of new opportunities for the region, following the signing with Digicel and Cable & Wireless.

Barnett said during the lecture that until there is a single regulatory mechanism: “We have the untidy reality of providers establishing different companies in each country and establishing the relations with each country.

“So that’s an untidy reality. We don’t have that super structure you have in the European Union that makes some of those things easier to do,” she told the questioner, adding “so the work is still there and the question I would ask is those who move within the region whether you are feeling that reduction in roaming charges that was agreed…and which is entirely in the purview of the telecommunication companies to roll out.

“That’s something we would want to know whether we are feeling that yet.”

(CMC)