Castries – Saint Lucia – 4th May 2023 – On 4th May 2000 the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) was born. This birth signaled the commencement of ECTEL’s mission ‘to provide transformative regulatory leadership which results in a competitive and innovative electronic communications sector’ in its five (5) Member States, namely: the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Directorate has been undertaking this mission by serving as the regional regulatory body advising the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) on electronic communications matters in its Member States. In simple terms, ECTEL works with the NTRCs to promote consumer rights and harmonised benefits in the electronic communications sector.
Over the years ECTEL has made strides in enhancing the electronic communications sector. The following are some of the Directorate’s tangible achievements that have positively impacted consumers and the public:
- Firstly, ECTEL is committed to affordable and reliable electronic communications services for all. In 2023, we recommended a Public Consultation to develop new Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations to ensure reliable and high quality electronic communications services well into the future. The QoS Regulations seek to address the myriad of complaints from retail consumers and to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement functions of the NTRCs in all the ECTEL Member States. Furthermore, in 2022, ECTEL recommended new mobile safeguards, which require all mobile service providers to inform customers when they are using a service out of plan, to reduce the likelihood of a customer unknowingly depleting their prepaid credit.
- Secondly, in 2019, ECTEL implemented Mobile Number Portability across all Member States. This was a significant milestone in the development of the sector, as number portability provides benefits to service providers and consumers alike. Consumers are now free to change service provider and keep their mobile number, relieving them of the aggravation of having to notify family, friends, and clients, that their number has changed. Mobile number portability also lowers the barriers to market entry, as a new service provider may find it easier to attract customers if they can keep their numbers.
- Thirdly, in 2007, ECTEL recommended a framework for Universal Service Funds in all the Member States, and has worked with the five NTRCs to develop a Universal Service Fund in each Member State. The USF, as it is called, allows for fees collected from service providers to be used to fund projects aimed at expanding affordable access to electronic communications services and devices. Since the launch of the USFs, several low-income households, persons with disabilities, schools, community access points, and health centres, have benefited from free or low-cost, high-quality internet access. The continuing need for the USF was emphasised during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a number of students were able to participate in remote learning using devices and subsidised services provided by the USF Funds.
According to ECTEL’s Acting Managing Director, Ms. Cheryl Hector Fontenelle, “A few initiatives will be undertaken to observe our 23rd Anniversary over the upcoming months. These include the staging of our Girls in ICT 2023 Virtual Tech Talk and Training on May 9th; our 2nd annual Anniversary Lecture which will continue to focus on the Electronic Communications Bill (EC Bill); exhibitions and the roll out of our EC Bill Education and Public Awareness Campaign. We look forward to engaging consumers and stakeholders, as we face the challenges that comes with putting the requisite policies in place to facilitate the shift from liberalization to digital transformation.”
Visit www.ectel.int or follow us @ectel on Facebook and YouTube and @ectelauthority on Instagram and Twitter for more information about ECTEL’s work, and upcoming initiatives to mark its 23rd anniversary being celebrated under the theme “From Liberalisation to Digital Transformation”.