A requirement to administer telecommunications businesses locally — as well as the removal of provisions for obsolete technologies like payphones — may be part of revised licensing requirements as the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission prepares to consider renewal applications for all four of the territory’s providers this year.

However, before any of the proposed new provisions are approved, the commission plans a 30-day period of public input.

TRC CEO Guy Malone said in a statement released Dec. 30 that the commission proposes to adopt a directive to amend the unitary licences currently granted to providers.

“When the current unitary licences were first issued in 2007, the telecommunications sector in the British Virgin Islands was ransitioning from a monopoly environment to a liberalised and competitive market,” Mr. Malone said. “Voice telephony services, both fixed and mobile, were the most critical services for consumers, and much of the regulation in the licences reflect that status.”

Now, however, the most critical services are broadband internet access services, according to data the TRC has received from the International Telecommunication Union, he said.

Although the licences have been modified from time to time since 2007, the basic terms remained unchanged, even though the needs of consumers have shifted, Mr. Malone explained.

The four unitary licences issued to CCT, FLOW, Digiceland BVI Cable TV in 2007 are due to expire over an eight month period this year, according to a press release issued by the TRC in June.

New provisions

Consequently, the commission is proposing new provisions to ensure licensees administer their businesses from local

premises, provide the services they are licensed to provide, notify the commission of proposed mergers, and allow for a five-year review of the licence and their compliance with obligations, among other provisions.

Likewise, obsolete provisions like a requirement to install and maintain a public payphone and to produce a printed directory will be removed, the statement noted.

The statement further cited increased extreme weather events that underscore the need for the network to be more resilient.

Mr. Malone added that the new licence terms will emphasise the need for more privacy, data protection and cybersecurity.

“Overall, the proposed amendments to the unitary licences have been guided by the changes in the circumstances of the telecommunications services industry in the British Virgin Islands,” he wrote.

Under Article 3.3(d) of the Telecommunications Act 2006, the commission is allowed to set new terms for license renewals “which reasonably reflect changed circumstances in the telecommunications sector” at the time of the renewal, according to the statement.

Before adopting such changes, the agency must publish notice at least 90 days before the new directive will take effect, the statement added.

WANT TO WEIGH IN?

On March 1, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission will hold a public hearing at Maria’s by the Sea to give providers and third parties a chance to provide feedback on proposed changes to licensing rules.

The hearing is being held under Article 18.5(b)(vi) of the Telecommunications Act 2006, which limits participation to “those persons who submitted a relevant comment or objection on the proposed directive,”according to the TRC.

All comments or objections must be filed with the commission by Feb. 14 at its location at 27 Fishlock Road.

Anyone with questions can contact TRC CEO Guy Malone at gmalone@trc.vg and copy Chantal Flax-Ward, chief legal advisor, at cflax-ward@trc.vg.

On March 29, the TRC will send a report to the licensees on the proposed changes, which will also be available to the public.


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