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The National Security Agency’s monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency’s activities.
The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.’s phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA’s operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.
While it has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, two Berry Islands businessmen were not willing to take that chance when they found their island completely wiped off the map -- literally.
"While doing research," said resident Mark Lothian, "we came across a map of The Bahamas that the Berry Islands was omitted from."
It's a finding that inspired the soon-to-be launched BerryzBuzz.com, which Lothian and partner Norman Bastian hopes will bring a change for the island's economy.
"The global recession has impacted everywhere negatively [and] no where in The Bahamas more than in the Family Islands," said Lothian. "The Berry's, being a very small, archipelagic, spread-out community, has been especially hard hit.
"Although we have almost complete employment, the economy is still not providing a decent living wage for anyone. All the businesses have been affected and little growth has taking place in the last few years. Most residents need to have several jobs just to make ends meet."
The partners are hoping to take matters into their own hands with the launch of the website, designed around promoting the islands, its attractions and its businesses.
The owners hope to grow the island's visitor base not only in the second-home market, but also from stop-overs wanting to spend time on the island.
It's a goal officials have said won't be realized until a major hotel is built on the more populated islands that can handle the crowd.
However, Lothian and Bastian believe leaving the island in its present state - with several inns and small bed and breakfasts littering the islands -- will actually work to the benefit of the island and distinguish it from the rest of The Bahamas.
"There are people out there just looking for a place like the Berry Islands to visit and to reside: a virtually crime-free, uncrowded, unspoiled, tranquil setting for the week-end visitor and the long-term resident or investor," said Lothian. "We disagree (that a hotel must be built), there are many rooms available, provided by boutique style bed and breakfast establishments, villa and townhouse apartments and attached and semi-attached rooms in private homes.
"Most of these are owned and operated by individuals that will offer the visitor personalized service to supply all their needs and wants."
Uniqueness is what they hope to showcase with the BerryzBuzz.com website, a virtual forum to promote local merchants and service providers to potential new customers and to promote the Berry Island chain to the world via the Internet.
Given that many of the businesses there are owner operated, there isn't much room for huge advertising or promotion budgets, said Lothian.
He intends to fill that void with more affordable rates that also target corporate and national businesses as advertisers to cover the bulk of the website's operating costs. The move is expected to defray their expenses and allow them to charge less than other traditional mediums for global coverage.
"What makes BerryzBuzz.com a unique platform for advertising and promoting the Berry Islands and its merchants is the fact that it will not be a static publication," said Lothian.
"We will be actively seeking visitors and investors through the advent of e-mail, blogging, social media and live response venues as well as strategic links to affiliated websites. BerryzBuzz.com will be constantly updated and improved as we grow."
Currently under construction, the website will be launched October 1.
"It is our hope that all the businesses, local and national we approach, will support us in this endeavor," Lothian added. "We will put the Berryz back on the map."
BTC has joined other regional telecoms operators in expressing concern that the interests of operators in the region are being undermined by voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) providers such as Skype, WhatsApp and others, which offer voice and multimedia delivery for customers at low or no cost.BTC and telecoms regulator URCA have both declared that they are keeping their eyes on VoIP providers as broadband develops in the country. The comments were prompted by vigorous debate at the 30th annual CANTO Conference, where the topic has been a source of controversy amongst Caribbean telecommunications operators, regulators and governments. It was claimed at the conference that governments in the region may be losing hundreds of millions of dollars collectively, as companies miss out on up to $500 million in revenue. The issue was originally raised by Digicel, which recently blocked a number of VoIPs, including Viber and NimBuzz, on their networks in Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad. Viber allows users to complete long distance calls from mobile using a data connection. In the CANTO opening session, Digicel Board Director PJ Mara passionately advocated the interests of telecoms operators in the region explaining that VoIP providers exploit infrastructures without contribution."With this (VoIP) arrangement, operators and the local governments lose," said Mara. "We are not opposed to all VoIPs, some, like Facebook, have a legitimate business model. However, we cannot have predatory providers draining local revenue for the benefit of venture capital firms away on Wall Street. Normally, a foreign provider pays termination fees to the destination provider for the use of the network, and from that we would pay taxes to the government. These VoIPs pay nothing. It is pure bypass."Mara called the situation "unsustainable" and one that a number of industry players have been trying to address for some time now."It's one that no one has been able to successfully overcome, and one that we are tackling head one," Mara said."Not only are we happy to take it head on, but a number of operators in the region will be tackling this issue in the coming months, because this is not something that can be sustained," he told the gathering.URCA Director of Policy and Regulations Steven Bereaux stated that while he understands the grievances of ICT operators, URCA will be taking a balanced approach in considering the issue, which he predicts will become very topical soon."I think it is important when we consider this issue, which will become a significant regulatory issue, that we consider holistically what these services mean to people, how they work and how or who they should pay," Bereaux said. "Whether the issue is revenue or regulation, it can be handled in many ways. We must be cautious. Disruptive technologies have been changing the way we work for a long time; even mobile was once disruptive. We must consider the perspectives of all stakeholders."BTC CEO Leon Williams believes that, though VoIP has not been a significant issue for the company thus far, BTC supports the CANTO stance as these providers rapidly grow. "CANTO's point of view is to simply level the playing field for legitimate licensed telecoms providers. We are all migrating to 4G, which is built for data; it is inevitable that there will be WhatsApp and other applications. However some are exploiting the infrastructure without paying licensing or termination fees. Also, these apps use significant data, degrading the quality and security of service; or, alternately, they increase the cost of data capacity to the provider, which would be passed on to the customer. So we support CANTO from a regional perspective."Williams added that though BTC has not yet planned any local action, the company has always sought to go above and beyond to adapt to the needs of the customer, pointing to BTC's past VoIP policies."As to the way forward locally, we have not set a specific plan," said Williams. "We always look to accommodate the customer. Look to VIBE, our own VoIP product [that] we launched in the 1990s as an alternate to predatory services. The product eventually cannibalized our long-distance and we had to replace it in 2011 with our HomePhone Plus, which provides long distance at more affordable rates. But now, as we did then, we seek to find a solution that benefits our customers, the company and the regulatory environment. We will be working in conjunction with CANTO to address this."
An old favorite in the Bahamian marketplace has been given a modern spin.
Ezminutes.com, a business recently launched by Nekia Brice, is tapping into the lesser-known e-commerce sector. And so far, the approach appears to be working. To date, more than 10,000 phone cards have been sold online as a result of Ezminutes.com.
Brice told Guardian Business that Ezminutes.com allows anyone from anywhere in the world to instantly purchase a phone card, using any internet-enabled device.
She said the company has already begun to lead the way in The Bahamas' e-commerce industry.
"We are at the dawn of the internet age here, in order for businesses to be able to compete in the future they would need to incorporate internet technology or be left with no business at all," according to Brice.
"With The Bahamas being an offshore jurisdiction for financial services, it is prime for an e-commerce boom in the near future. We want businesses to know that yes it is possible to obtain a Bahamian merchant account for accepting credit cards online. Once setup, the funds are cleared in a local bank account.
"Ezminutes.com is a Bahamian online small business which operates solely through e-commerce. We have proven it is possible and we hope to inspire others."
She pointed out that Ezminutes.com is optimized for easy navigation and few clicks from any mobile device, tablet or computer. Customers receive the pins on the website instantly once a purchase is complete. Purchases can be made using any visa or master, debit or credit card.
Brice revealed to Guardian Business due to the company's local success, plans are underway to expand to other countries. She hopes to launch a similar service in the UK by the end of 2012.
Once completed, customers will also be able to purchase UK top up vouchers for all major mobile providers, including T-Mobile, Vodafone, 02, Orange and Three.
Brice said this service will primarily target customers in the UK and anyone outside of the UK who wishes to keep their UK prepaid mobile number active.
Ezminutes.com is a product of Websoft E-Business Solutions, which provides consulting and development of online businesses in The Bahamas and throughout the world.
Brice's success comes as manager of e-commerce at MWF Group Bahamas, Damien Forsythe, recently told Guardian Business that the country is still missing out on a golden opportunity to cash in on the e-commerce sector.
Forsythe encouraged banks to provide more merchant services, as it would not only help local businesses grow but also help the overall economy by embracing this sector.
"I don't know if they are aware of the potential of those types of services," he said.
"They have really held back local businesses that want to sell online domestically and internationally. I think the banks are not thinking about it and have not been forced to think about it," he shared.
Bank of The Bahamas announced in February that it plans to launch a formal e-commerce program in the coming months.
In an effort to further enhance mobile performance, the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has agreed to a multi-year contract with a Florida-based company specializing in roaming, messaging and networking solutions.
BTC will utilize the services of Syniverse in the hopes of improving mobile call quality for local subscribers on its network and for roaming callers that frequent the country annually.
The CEO of BTC Geoff Houston said the new partnership will be a great resource for the network.
"At BTC, we are constantly exploring new ways to enhance the mobile experience for our end users rather than managing the endless complexities that arise from having a multitude of vendor relationships," Houston said. "Syniverse brings the best of both worlds - providing the in-region expertise and solutions to optimize the experience of our subscribers and inbound roamers, while also serving as a preferred provider for so many of our mobile support needs, allowing us to remain focused on our top priority, our customers."
Syniverse provides mobile solutions for over 900 mobile operators, cable and Internet providers in over 160 countries. Its array of resources that it will offer to BTC go beyond messaging and roaming. BTC will now have the ability to proactively recognize and resolve problems such as network outages before the user is impacted.
The company should also be able to offer real-time alerting and rating capabilities that alert subscribers as they use data services at home and while roaming, and minimize the size of the uncollectable data roaming bill for BTC.
Senior Vice President of Syniverse for the Caribbean and Latin America Pablo Milkota, said BTC's commitment to improve mobile service quality is a great decision and it certainly will pay off in the long term.
"BTC is taking full advantage of Syniverse's breadth of solutions to meet and anticipate customer demands today and well into the future, while also realizing the efficiencies of a single source for advanced mobile solutions," Milkota said.
"We are pleased to expand our relationship with this forward-looking operator, building upon our long history of serving operators in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America. As a result, we now make mobile work for 95 percent of mobile subscribers in the region."
"Cable Bahamas has earned profits of over $203 million in fourteen years."
Last week in this column, we asked our readers to consider whether the Utilities Competition and Regulatory Authority (URCA) should approve Cable Bahamas' request for an increase of the basic cable fees by as much as 27 percent. We foreshadowed a town meeting that was organized by URCA on Tuesday, September 11 to allow them to hear the public's views on the requested increase. We went to that town meeting which was well-attended, lively and, at times, even passionate.
Therefore, this week we would like to Consider This... was the URCA town meeting productive? What, if anything, did it teach us about Cable Bahamas?
The URCA-hosted town meeting was represented by some of its senior executives. Several Cable Bahamas executives were also present as well as one identifiable director of that Company. The meeting was chaired and the ground rules were clearly explained by URCA's general counsel and, except for several reminders to allow individuals to be heard, the meeting was lively and occasionally boisterous.
There were approximately 200 persons at the meeting and at least 50 of them spoke to the issue.
Not one single person who publically expressed their view felt that the increase was justified or should be approved. There was unanimous objection to the proposed price increase. We did not get a sense that anyone in attendance felt intimidated about supporting the price increase. Admittedly, URCA did not adequately explain the reason for the proposed increase, except to state that Cable Bahamas felt that the cost of programming had increased, without any statistics to support Cable's claims, as well as the fact that the cost of living had increased since 1995 by 37 percent.
Some of the sentiments expressed by participants at the town meeting included the following:
o Cable Bahamas should be ashamed of itself for asking for an increase;
o In light of the channels that subscribers are receiving and Cable's poor level of service, Cable is not entitled to an increase;
o Cable should consider keeping the current price level while decreasing the number of channels offered because many subscribers could do without some of the channel offerings;
o It is patently unfair for Cable to charge a reconnection fee of $55 or $56, particularly given the frequent outages experienced by some subscribers;
o Given its monopoly, subscribers are held technologically hostage because there is no choice of service providers;
o There are many students who rely on the Internet for study purposes and "without Cable Bahamas, we are technologically blind";
o Too many of the channel offerings are in Spanish which, in an English speaking country, is unacceptable;
o This town meeting was only cosmetic and a farce and it was felt that a decision had already been made by URCA to grant the increase;
o URCA was asked to quantify how much of The Bahamas has cable, pursuant to Cable Bahamas' mandate to "provide cable to the entire Bahamas." URCA never answered the question;
o It is grossly unfair for Cable Bahamas to charge households $30 and $50 to businesses for its monthly service. This disparity is unacceptable and unjustifiable;
o Cable Bahamas is demonstrating that it is the worst kind of corporate citizen by asking poor people for an increase while many Bahamians are still suffering the effects of the economic downturn; and
o The proposed increase of $8 for household consumers is unconscionable because with that amount "we can buy at least eight tins of tuna fish or at least three tins of corned beef".
Perhaps the biggest bomb shell was dropped when activist Rodney Moncur asked URCA to confirm that its Chairman Randol Dorsett is the lead attorney for Cable Bahamas, which Moncur maintained resulted in a gross conflict of interest. Moncur added that "it is professionally immoral for the chairman of URCA to be Cable Bahamas' lead counsel (in the Supreme Court) and therefore has no confidence in URCA's ability to be independent in this matter". The question went unanswered.
Cable Bahamas director's views
While no one from Cable Bahamas spoke at the town meeting, in an interview with one of the daily newspapers, Dionisio D'Aguilar, one of the Company's Directors, agreed that if Dorsett is still Cable Bahamas' lawyer and URCA's chairman, "that does seem to be a bit of a conflict". He was also quoted as describing the meeting as "stupid" and a "complete waste of time". He continued that for Cable Bahamas, "it made no sense for them to respond to those people". He is also quoted as saying that "those town meetings are the stupidest things that God ever created. They are always out of control; they are just a way for people to vent".
Cable Bahamas' financial results
When asked about the level of profits that Cable Bahamas has earned over the years, one of URCA's executives replied that Cable Bahamas is a public company whose profits can be viewed online. So we went online and noted a startlingly revealing history of profitability by that company. For the period 1998 to 2011, the published annual audited net profits earned by Cable Bahamas are as follows:
It is revealing that Cable Bahamas earned a net profit of $7.2 million in 1998 (its lowest) and a record high net profit of $28.5 million in 2009, or an average annual net profit of $15 million for the 14 years reported. Could it be that the company applied for a rate increase in 2011 because it realized that its annual net profits were declining from 2009 and wanted a higher return for its shareholders that approached that banner year results? Is that sufficient justification for a rate increase?
Or perhaps Cable Bahamas has noticed that, because of the economy, its subscribers have migrated from the more expensive packages to the basic package, thereby accounting for some of the decline in its profits. So, instead of applauding the allegiance of its subscribers who, in such a desperate economy, have found a way to stick with cable, albeit in a smaller way, in an example of capitalism at its worst, cable decides to raise the price of that basic package, perhaps taking it out of the reach of the very customer who has been forced to drop the more expensive package to scrap together that $30 each month. To even the casual observer, it appears to be a classic case of corporate and individual greed.
Whatever one might think about URCA's town meeting, one thing is certain. These types of public fora are indicative of a maturing and deepening democracy which enables citizens to express their views on issues of national importance. They should be encouraged and we commend URCA for hosting such meetings, even if they are uncomfortable for some of the stakeholders. To date, given the enormous profits that Cable Bahamas has earned over the years, especially in light of its cable monopoly, a persuasive argument has not been made that would support the proposition that URCA should grant the requested increase at this time, having regard for the already high cost of living that many Bahamians are experiencing.
This exercise has clearly demonstrated that such public meetings will contribute to the deepening of our democracy even while a monopolistic company is simultaneously seeking to deepen its coffers and the pockets of its shareholders.
Next week, we will consider how, from its inception, URCA seems to be plagued with charges of conflicts of interest and what can be done to overcome such perceptions and allow them to do their important work, free of the shadow of scandal.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) intends to launch Internet Protocol television (IPTV) by March 2015.
BTC Chief Executive Officer Leon Williams confirmed the information at a business meet and greet event while he was talking about the updates to the telecommunications network. The company has previously only said it would begin trials by Christmas with a 2015 rollout.
"We are in the process of spending some $65 million this fiscal year - ending in March 2015 - to improve our cellular network as well as to deliver services like iMPLS (interprovider multiprotocol label switching) and MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) that gives the high-speed bandwidth that businesses need," he said.
"In addition to that, sometime between now and March, we hope to get into the business of television. We are launching our own IPTV network. Stay tuned. Coming soon."
IPTV takes advantage of the same "language" used by the Internet to allow information to be sent and received over any broadband or network connection. AT&T, one of the leading IPTV providers, says the technology is "a different, improved technology than 'traditional' cable or satellite TV, and it allows for more flexibility within the network."
IPTV enables two-way interactivity...The two-way IPTV network means viewers have more options to interact, personalize and control their viewing experience.
Multiprotocol label switching is a protocol for speeding up and shaping network traffic flow. It was created in the late 1990s to avoid having routers waste time by having to stop and look up routing tables.
Interprovider MPLS is an enhanced provider interconnect service that allows MPLS-based service providers to seamlessly extend IP virtual private network (IP VPN) service reach beyond their region. Based on leading industry standards and technology, iMPLS dramatically enhances a provider's time-to-market capability for serving out-of-region customers while minimizing the capital expense needed to build out an extended network and service infrastructure. Interprovider MPLS also grants service providers immediate access to Global Crossing's converged IP applications.
The Ingraham administration privatized BTC in 2011, selling 51 percent of the company to Cable and Wireless Communications over the vociferous objections of a significant number of people. It was a campaign pledge by the Christie PLP that, on assuming office, they would renegotiate in order to return majority ownership of BTC to "the Bahamian people".
At the gathering, an event sponsored by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation to salute Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, Williams noted that in September, negotiations concluded and CWC transferred two percent of the company into a foundation designed to benefit the Bahamian people. The new arrangement means that CWC owns 49 percent of BTC, with the government of The Bahamas owning 49 percent and the foundation - which government officials refer to as "the people of The Bahamas" - owning two percent.
"I make the distinction between the Bahamas government, and the people of The Bahamas. The people of The Bahamas own 51 percent of the economic value of BTC," Williams said. "[That's a fact] we should be proud of."
Williams talked about the challenges of connectivity in The Bahamas, which he noted covered the same area as the entire Eastern Caribbean. He said there are five submarine cables - possibly more - connecting The Bahamas to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
"There are no other countries in the Caribbean as connected as The Bahamas," Williams said. "We've got both cellular networks, CDMA and GSM. So whether the tourist comes from the U.S. as a Verizon customer or as an AT&T customer, it makes no difference - their phone works while they are here."
A Bahamian-owned company is planning a $40 million investment in telecommunications infrastructure if it obtains government approval to join forces with an international mobile services provider and become the next company selected to gain a mobile license in the newly-liberalized mobile environment.
IP Solutions International Limited (IPSI) currently has an application before the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) to approve a share purchase agreement and change in control for the company, which would permit it to bring in Limitless Mobile Holdings as an equity and strategic partner that would assist the local company in continuing to build out its infrastructure and its network.
Limitless Mobile owns and operates a mobile network in the United States, which is currently being upgraded to 4G/LTE. In Europe, Limitless owns and operates a mobile network in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Poland and Sweden.
Those currently involved in IPSI include CEO and major shareholder, Edison Sumner, Sir Orville Turnquest, Virginia Damianos and Larry Carroll. Limitless Mobile Holdings is led by Richard Worley, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and Charles Ryan, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Deutsche UFG, one of Russia's leading investment companies.
BTC's mobile exclusivity period lasted for three years after Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) bought a 51 percent stake in BTC, as a condition of their purchase.
IPSI, which has been in existence since 2008, has already received the necessary individual spectrum and operating licenses that would enable it to offer fixed line, television and broadband Internet services - known as "triple play".
IPSI claims to have already built and deployed most of the infrastructure necessary to deliver its IPTV, broadband wireless internet and landline (voice over internet protocol) services in new Providence and Abaco and until recently has been servicing the communications needs of the Baker's Bay development on Guana Cay, Abaco for over three years.
In a release sent by Sumner late yesterday afternoon confirming information obtained by Guardian Business, IPSI disclosed that it is waiting for government approval of its partnership with Limitless Mobile before it moves ahead with building out its network and launching its planned rollout of full multi-play media and communications services throughout The Bahamas, which it hopes will include mobile data and voice services.
Sumner told Guardian Business that IPSI is "aptly qualified to get involved in the mobile space" and is prepared to begin the build out of its infrastructure in this regard immediately after they get the approvals from the government on the foreign direct investment component.
"The company intends to spend in excess of $40 million building out its network, the 4G LTE network, and completing the build out of the IP TV infrastructure. The fixed line and broadband infrastructure is already in existence and we just need to begin to migrate our customers onto that. We were already approved in doing it but wanted to wait until we got all of these approvals before moving ahead," said Sumner.
Guardian Business understands that the company has officially made known its hopes of becoming a mobile service provider in The Bahamas, and shortly intends to formally announce its intentions to the public.
Among other companies, Digicel has expressed its continued interest in becoming involved in the mobile space in The Bahamas, telling Guardian Business on Monday that it would hope the government will "imminently" outline how it expects potential participants to go about that. However, Digicel has also elicited a strong negative response from the union that represents BTC staff, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union.
Consequently, IPSI is hoping it may be able to - despite Digicel's stronger financial clout - put itself forward as a more union-friendly company as a means of gaining more union and potentially political favor in the process.
As it stands, the ball is now in the prime minister's court, as the minister responsible of outlining how companies interested in gaining the license to become mobile operators in The Bahamas should proceed in doing that. This would, consequently, open the door to the formal launch of the bid to find a new provider.
There are various types of processes which governments can typically engage in to identify new providers, including auctioning the opportunity or issuing a request for proposal.
In a statement to Guardian Business on the end of BTC's exclusivity period in mobile phone services, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation said that it supports more competition in all sectors of the economy as it "simply creates broader economic and commercial opportunities, while at the same time ensuring that the power is rightly placed in the hand of the consumer."
"We do acknowledge the progress that the new BTC has made with expanded offerings and competitive pricing. We are encouraged by the competition that we see emerging within the marketplace for broadband and land line services.
"For us to see optimal service delivery and best possible packages and prices though, we do need strong robust and fair competition in the sector," said BCCEC Chairman Chester Cooper.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson told attendees at the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Busan, Korea, that in addition to the cellular/mobile market, the government wants to see more competition across the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, particularly in the markets for pay TV and broadband.
"The Bahamas would welcome the entry of additional players in any area of our electronic communications market, and would be particularly receptive to those willing to partner with Bahamians in bringing enhanced technologies and increased competition, which will translate into educational, employment, entrepreneurial and growth opportunities for our citizens," Maynard-Gibson said.
On the matter of liberalization of the mobile sector, the attorney general said that invitations for licences to operate cellular/mobile networks in The Bahamas are "imminent", as she laid out the government's ICT strategy.
Referencing the April 2014 electronic communications sector policy, which she said outlines critical policies for the growth and development of ICT within The Bahamas, Maynard-Gibson anticipated the breaking of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) monopoly in cellular services as a means of boosting competitiveness.
"A key thrust of our domestic policy is aimed at enabling and fostering greater access to world-class electronic communications services throughout the islands of The Bahamas," the attorney general said.
Among the targeted objectives of the policy are: The provision of a specified basic level of electronic communications services to all populated areas at affordable prices and free of charge to certain institutions of social and educational importance; ensuring that key institutions in the public and private sectors have access to domestic and international electronic communications, which are capable of withstanding natural disasters and which support the essential governance, social and economic institutions, and ensuring the availability of reliable, reasonably-priced broadband Internet access to residents and visitors.
She also said the policy aims to ensure the use of ICT in the delivery of health, education and government services, which is essential in an archipelagic nation.
"The government of The Bahamas has commenced a number of bold initiatives to achieve these goals, including taking steps to remove existing monopolies or exclusive access within the cellular/mobile sector," Maynard-Gibson said. "It is recognized that competition is the most effective method to obtain world-class service at affordable prices. The liberalization process is ongoing and the government will imminently invite interested persons or entities to apply for the appropriate licences to operate cellular mobile networks in The Bahamas."
She said The Bahamas is "well-poised to accommodate an open and competitive cellular market and to implement this development in an effective, expedited and transparent manner", noting that every market except cellular has been open to competition since 2009.
"The government has also established administrative machinery to expedite the approvals process for new cellular mobile networks. It is intended that new providers should become operational in the shortest possible time," she advised.
Maynard-Gibson led a Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) delegation to the Plenipotentiary Conference. The ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for ICT and the Plenipotentiary Conference is the key event at which ITU member states (193 countries, including The Bahamas) decide on the future role of the organization, thereby determining the organization's ability to influence and affect the development of ICT worldwide.
Three hundred high-level attendees from 23 countries or jurisdictions will attend next week's OffshoreAlert Conference to discuss everything that's important in the world of offshore finance.
The event - which will be broadcast live over the Internet to those unable to attend - has sessions for buyers, providers and investigators of offshore products and services.
"A unique aspect of The OffshoreAlert Conference is that it brings together a diverse group of influential individuals from onshore and offshore jurisdictions ..."