Telecommunications Minister Darcy Boyce says while Barbados currently ranks “high” in the Caribbean in terms of connectivity, his desire is to have it listed among the top ten countries in the world.
But instead of going the route of legislative change, Boyce announced today that the Freundel Stuart administration intended to utilize “moral suasion” over the course of the next 12 months, as it pushes “very hard” for number portability — a way for Barbadians to keep their telephone numbers even if they switch their provider.
“We will push number portability both for mobile phones as well as the fixed lines,” said Boyce, the Minister responsible for telecommunications in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Addressing the launch of a local Internet exchange point at the Hilton hotel, Boyce embarked on the process of “moral suasion” as he called on local providers Flow and Digicel to work out an arrangement on how number portability could be achieved, saying he would not have to resort to legislation or regulations.
The minister explained to the gathering, which included representatives of both telecoms companies, as well as other key industry stakeholders, that while regulation would still be necessary “it would be lovely if the regulations that we do are regulations that are agreed upon by all, and are agreed upon fairly soon”.
Number portability has already been launched in the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Dominican Republic.
Insisting that Barbados must not be left behind, Boyce said his ministry would be making a greater effort this year to try “to get the regulators of telecommunication services to do more talking with each other and maybe more cooperation with each other.
“We are going to try to get the regulators to look at some potential memorandum of understanding so that we can work together and so that we can remove any chance of regulatory arbitrage between the countries in the region.
“This is in line with what the heads of government [of the Caribbean Community] have approved about three or four years ago to create a single ICT space in the region,” noted Boyce.
Government’s position on number portability was immediately welcomed by telecommunications analyst Hallam Hope who told Barbados TODAY it would be a big benefit, especially for small business owners who use their mobile phone to conduct business.
“Many of us in business or as customers we have invested a lot in that number so we are not inclined to move it because we have it for many years and people know that number by heart,” acknowledged Hope.
However, he said it was yet to be determined what impacts it was likely to have.
“So it is that benefit to the society in terms of competition, but like everything else the question is what are the details, will there be cost to the consumer, how soon would your number be able to be ported from one service provider to another?” he asked.