ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) – State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson says liberalization of the telecommunications industry will go down as one of the most significant milestones in Jamaica’s development.
Speaking at a Fair Trading Commission sponsored forum, entitled ‘National Competition Day: Transforming Jamaica Digitally’, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James on Thursday, Robinson said that the opening up of the industry to new players was a revolutionary move that has impacted greatly on the country’s economy.
“When the administration took the decision in the late nineties to proactively negotiate with what was then Cable and Wireless, to end their monopoly on telecommunication services, it was a significant milestone in our nation’s history,” the state minister said.
Prior to 1999 the Jamaican telecommunications sector was dominated by Cable and Wireless Jamaica (C&WJ), which changed its name in 2008 to LIME (Landline Internet Mobile, Entertainment). In 1988 the company was granted five exclusive licences, each for 25 years, and with options for extensions for a further 25 years.
But, in an effort to develop a competitive and vibrant telecommunications industry, the Government embarked on a drive to liberalize the telecommunications industry.
This led to the phased liberalization of the sector in September 1999. Full liberalization was achieved on March 1, 2003, making Jamaica the first of the English-speaking Caribbean island to embark on a path of market liberalization in telecommunications.
The state minister pointed that once Digicel and Oceanic Digital were granted licences in 2001, an entirely new world opened up in the telecommunications sector and to which local consumers benefited tremendously.
“It redefined the entire marketplace. Prices came down and the competition was healthy…more beneficial to the consumer,” he noted.
Robinson pointed out that since liberalization, cell phone users have moved from about 60,000 subscribers to nearly three million presently.
He said competition is always a good thing for the marketplace, adding that information technology is the fastest growing industry in the country.
The state minister noted that the Government is very committed to ensure that rates, particularly the Broad Band rates, remain competitive and that citizens, regardless of where they live, will have access to everything that the telecommunications sector provide.
“We are committed to ensuring that people have not only access, but we are also committed to ensuring that they can afford the cost. The telecommunications industry has spurred the growth of a number of other industries and has triggered growth in the economy,” the state minister added.
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