Premier Andrew Fahie has started meeting with stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to address concerns that internet service is costly and unsatisfactory, following through on a pledge he made in a May 13 statement.
His discussions included a May 24 meeting with the CEO of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, he said during a statement on Monday in the House of Assembly.
The premier also expressed scepticism towards comments that telecom executives reportedly made in a recent online article, which blamed the high costs of internet on the terrain and high infrastructure costs in the Virgin Islands.
“These stated reasons raise certain questions in my mind, and certainly in the mind of ordinary laypersons,” he said. “Because the telecommunications service providers would have known about these technical issues before they applied for the concession to operate. And therefore I cannot believe that this is an after-the-fact discovery.”
Mr. Fahie said government established the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission in part to review the prices and quality of internet services after the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2007.
He added that the levy that should have been collected from operators to fund the commission was put on hold to encourage those operators to invest in their networks and thereby improve service quality and price.
He said if the levy had been enforced, government would have collected more than $20.7 million from the telecommunications companies to date.
The revenue collected just between 2017 and 2020, he said, would be over $8.6 million.
Successive governments considered the levy relief a “necessary trade-off ” to “ensure that the people of the BVI would be entreated to world-class services on par with any modern economy” and to attract and retain business activity, he explained.
However, based on complaints he believes the policy objectives set out in 2007 have not been achieved, he said, adding that government is discussing changes to the market structure, regulatory reforms and new licence requirements with operators and other stakeholders.
“Our people deserve to be treated better. They deserve to get value when they spend their hard-earned money,” he said. “It is my belief that whatever challenges and obstacles exist in the path of delivering high quality and value for money should be laid on the table.”