Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 19, 2021 (SKNIS): A Bill to provide for the regulation of an electronic communication network and an electronic communications service and for related matters, otherwise known as the Electronic Communications Bill, 2021, was successfully passed in the Federal Parliament on Thursday, February 18, 2021.
The Honourable Minister of Health, ICT, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, and Talent Development, Akilah Byron-Nisbett, Mover of the Bill, laid out a synopsis of its objectives.
“Mr. Speaker, the enactment of the EC Bill in the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis will ensure a broader scope of regulations from telecommunications to ‘electronic communications’ and will also address matters but not limited to: principles of fair competition; change of ownership of electronic communications companies within the ECTEL Contracting States; universal service and access; preservation of an open internet with the adoption of net neutrality principles; the establishment of the NTRCs as body corporates; the setting up of a tribunal independent of the NTRC to hear unresolved disputes between licensees and customers; and the inclusion of more penalties for breach of the legislation among other things.”
Minister Byron-Nisbett noted that a critical component of the Bill is the inclusion of a robust regulatory framework that promotes and preserves a vibrant sector.
“Mr. Speaker the EC Bill includes the critical elements necessary for an effective regulatory framework, such as the functional aspects of the regulatory authority, decision-making processes, accountability, consumer protection, dispute resolution, and enforcement powers,” she added. “The EC Bill will serve as a valuable piece of legislation for the electronic communications sector in the Federation because the goals of the EC Bill are to ensure that market failure is avoided, to foster effective competition, and most importantly, in my opinion, is to protect consumer interests and to increase access to technology and services. And I believe even now as we move towards a digital economy this means so much more in light of that Mr. Speaker.”
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister noted that the Bill represents the Federation’s past, present, and future advancements.
“It spoke to our past, present, and future, and it showed how the foundations that were laid we continue to build on and we progress in leaps and bounds in getting us as a Federation to where we need to get to in terms of our digital transformation and in no way we would take for granted the work that has been done and put in by others to get us where we are, not just in telecommunications but in every aspect,” said Minister Byron-Nisbett. “It also speaks to how resilient we are as a people and how we continue to do whatever we can to ensure that we continue to progress this country.”
She used the occasion to thank the members of the Honourable House for their contributions in support of the Bill and noted that she was pleased to have had the support of both sides of the House for such a very “important milestone landmark piece of legislation.” The minister believes that the Bill “will be able to push not just St. Kitts and Nevis but the entire region and members of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) states to even higher heights.”