All around the world governments levy a small tax on the revenues of telecommunications companies, which are credited to a “Universal Service Fund”. The purpose of this fund is to finance projects to make telecommunications service available to underserved communities and parts of the country where, for commercial reasons the telecom’s companies might not ordinarily serve.
The Eastern Caribbean is no exception, however there has been growing concern not surprisingly most of which is from among the service providers themselves, but also from other stakeholders that these funds are accumulating but seldom used.
Our Tech correspondent Russell Williams took the opportunity during a break of ECTEL’s 77th Board Meeting in Basseterre St. Kitts to ask what was planned to address this concern and help stimulate more projects to make use of the funds?
We asked what oversight and input ECTEL might have over the management and use of the Universal Service Funds (USF)?
ECTEL is obligated under the treaty to provide continues advice and guidance on the use of the Universal Service Funds, these are essentially national funds set up by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) so they are responsible for the management of the fund. But what we do is get involved in the process of setting rules and policies that are harmonised across the ECTEL member states.
Mr. Charles said.
Mr. Charles went on to explain that in late 2015 a consultation was held with stakeholders that resulted in a modest increase to the fund of an additional one percent being made by the service providers. He also indicated that there was some work being done and amendments made to the policies and guidelines that address the operation of the fund,
The ECTEL chief shared some more details on the nature of the changes to the policy:
“In essence some of the work, speaks to adjusting the framework and parameters for defining what is Universal Service as well as who can contribute and actually access the funds. We had challenges in the past that because of the limited interpretation of the rules by some of the NTRCs there was a very slow roll-out of programmes and projects under the fund. That was criticised from the point of view that there were a lot of projects that could be done, but only the service providers could access the funds.”
“But those were the rules at the time, we could not break the rules, unless the rules change we have to go by the rules. But there can be some latitude and some NTRCs have done that and we advise others to follow cautiously.
Listen to the full interview here:
An IT Professional for more than 20 years and an entrepreneur since the 1998, Russell Williams has extensive experience as an IT Trainer and facilitator and is happy to answer your questions. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RwilliamsKN, G+ google.com/+RussellWilliamsKN