Telcom Bill poses challenges

Monday December 09, 2019 Written by Published in Politics
Bluesky Cook Islands is the only telecommunications service provider in the country. Picture: Jasons/19120818 Bluesky Cook Islands is the only telecommunications service provider in the country. Picture: Jasons/19120818

Although it may pose as challenging, delivering an effective telecommunications service within the Cook Islands is still viable. 

 

The new Telecommunications Bill which promises an entrance of new network providers is due to go to Parliament this week.

However, chief executive officer for Avaroa Cable Limited, Ranulf Scarbrough, said delivering effective telecommunications service to a country with a small population would still be “very challenging”.

Scarbrough said competition at the retail end of the market was important to give consumers choice. 

“Under the act, there is significant potential for new retail market entrants.  Most economists agree that retail competition is the best way to ensure competitive pricing and service innovation over the long term. The small size of the market in the Cooks Islands makes achieving that potentially challenging and it may not happen immediately, but the regulator will still be there to look out for consumers’ interests,” said Scarbrough.

Orama Limited director, William Framhein, who has plans to develop his company, Kuki Cell Ltd, as a telecommunications provider, has major concerns about the new Bill.

Framhein’s court litigation against the Attorney General and the Minister for Telecommunications in an effort to be granted a radio apparatus licence has been adjourned for March next year.

But Framhein said the new Bill specifically preserves apparatus licences to Telecom Cook Islands and no one else.

 He added he would lobby MPs to have the Competition and Regulatory Bill and the Telecommunications Bill withdrawn for rewrite or referred to a competent select committee for proper consultation.

However Ranulf Scarbrough said the major investment in the Manatua cable has increased the urgency of this overhaul of the legislation in order to maximise the benefits the cable will bring. 

Legislation he said will align well with other countries that have successfully reformed their telecommunications markets and reaped the benefits. 

Scarbrough said significant power would be vested in the new regulator, which will be independent of government and focused on the long-term best interests of the consumer.

“The government’s stake in Bluesky, or indeed its ownership of Avaroa Cable Ltd, both at arm’s length, should not inhibit market development and the regulator will be able to ensure that through the use of their new powers under the act.

“There definitely will be competition immediately following the act. In fact, the substantial data bundle increases that many Cook Islands subscribers saw at the beginning of August this year arguably reflects that O3B satellite service foresaw the new competitive regime and is already responding.  We are therefore potentially seeing the benefits of the legislation before the act has even passed.”

Scarbrough also said that Avaroa Cable Ltd was keen to hear from potential new market entrants to understand what they need from the cable and how they might support them to enter the market. 

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