September 21, 2020

Threat to ban OTT services [by LIME and Digicel] on CTU meeting agenda


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SKN-ICT-Week-BannerBy Glen Bart St Kitts & Nevis Observer

Dealing with threats by Caribbean telecom networks to ban ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) services would be a priority for telecommunications ministers, who meet in St. Kitts, Sept. 22 to 26, for the annual meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).

According to Mr. Pierre Bowrin, policy adviser in the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, over-the-top services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, have already been banned by LIME and Digicel in Jamaica. Ministers fear a cascading effect throughout the region.

“In a region that has a large diaspora population, and where most cannot afford ordinary rates for telecommunications, the banning of such services would have an adverse effect for many people and their families,” explained Mr. Bowrin.

323985_462685727083559_766208862_oReaching consensus on how to move forward on this matter would be a significant achievement of the meeting said Bowrin.

According to some technology experts, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have argued that over-the-top communications services undermine future investment potential, while driving higher user demand on telecommunications networks that further places pressure on ISPs to improve bandwidth technologies.

On the other side of the debate, app developers and users have indicated that changing the present arrangement could threaten freedom of expression, as well as create access discrimination and degrade the openness and freedom of the Internet.

“It’s a debate that inevitably has reached the Caribbean region, and it is a real concern,” said the Policy Adviser Bowrin.

Meanwhile, Bowrin said the opportunity of the CTU meeting in St. Kitts is being used to rejuvenate the St. Kitts and Nevis ICT Week of Activities, which first started as a month of activities in 2008. He disclosed that a new thrust is being undertaken to engage various segments of our citizenry in today’s digital communications technologies.

“There would be seminars that target various groups, for example, the differently abled persons, youth and senior citizens, so that as many persons are included in acquiring the skills through digital literacy. All ages must be able to participate in the global digital society,” said Bowrin.

Issues to be discussed during the week of activities would include cyber security and cyber incident responses that are said to be “critical to ICT Policy development in the Caribbean”. Identifying gaps and weaknesses in existing national ICT Policies would be done on the basis of leading practices and experiences of the Caribbean region, Bowrin explained.

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union, the Organization of American States, the Government of Canada and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis are collaborating to host the series of ICT developmental workshops, as well as the CTU meeting.

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