Government MP Hon. Asot Michael wants the Gaston Browne administration to stop allowing protection of a state-owned telecommunication company to prevent it from reforming the legal and regulatory landscape for telecommunications in the country.
“For the past four and a half years”, Asot Michael declared, “the Ministry of Telecommunications has been making the case for reforming the legal and regulatory landscape affecting telecommunications in Antigua and Barbuda and on each and every occasion, the efforts have been thwarted in favour of protection of APUA Telecoms”.
The former Tourism Minister believes the strategy of holding off on the enactment of the Telecommunications Bill until APUA gets its act together is holding up the country’s development:
“While we are seeking to protect and re-invigorate the APUA, we are also by our own actions enabling them to stifle consumer options in the process… What a ludicrous proposition we still have today where APUA is both a competitor in and regulator of the local telecoms market. It is the APUA who approves the license of the other two mobile operators and it is APUA that maintains a monopoly on the fixed line network in the country for telecommunications”.
In a two-hour presentation on the 2019 Budget, Hon. Asot Michael told Parliament “these irregularities… will be corrected by the passage of the Telecommunications Bill”. But he said the proposed legislation “has been languishing on the order paper of Parliament, year after year, despite promises to the contrary by both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Telecommunications.
According to the St. Peter’s MP, “We aren’t going to be able to attract the new Fintech Industry Players to our shores even if we enact new legislation governing block chain and crypto currency technologies while our telecommunications infrastructure and environment remains in the shambles that it is today… Not only the new Fintech Industries and Schools and new residential areas, but also the Central Government if it is to have the type of network to support the eGovernment initiatives…
Hon Asot Michael is recommending the establishment of an independent regulatory commission…that will give the new Telecoms companies a fair chance to compete and succeed in the telecoms market.