Falklands : FIRS THROWS THE SPOTLIGHT ON DICK SAWLE (09/02/11)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 11.02.2011 (Article Archived on 25.02.2011)
A period of public consultation is underway for the draft telecommunications amendment bill. The bill will establish a new regime for satellite telecommunications services in the Islands. Today I will be speaking to Councillor Dick Sawle (DS) about the consultation document.
FIRS THROWS THE SPOTLIGHT ON DICK SAWLE
A Report for FIRS by Stacey Bragger (SB) 09/02/2011
SB: A period of public consultation is underway for the draft telecommunications amendment bill. The bill will establish a new regime for satellite telecommunications services in the Islands. Today I will be speaking to Councillor Dick Sawle (DS) about the consultation document.
To begin with Councillor Sawle told me about the latest status on telecommunications work.
DS: Where we are at the moment; we’ve already had one piece of legislation which went through a few months ago now, which provides for regulation. Andrew Newman has been appointed in the last EXCO as regulator. We have a whole raft of proposals under that regulation, which we are going through Cable & Wireless at the moment, which is basically to ensure that people get a value for money service. That’s all on-going; and this, if you like, is the final stage of the revision of the telecommunications ordinance, 1988, which is the satellite telecommunications bill, which went to Executive Council last week, will now be out for public consultation and should, all things being equal, go to the May Assembly for approval.
SB: What are the areas and questions that you are looking for people to respond to?
DS: Well, I would encourage people who want to have a copy of the consultation document, which also includes the draft bill; I would encourage them to get a copy. They are available from Gilbert House if you want to wander in and get a hard copy or by e-mail by contacting anybody at Gilbert House. And I would encourage people to read it and to go through the questions that are in the consultation document because I think they are quite important issues and people need to be aware of what this bill means and need to be aware of what it can do for them.
SB: V-Sats – is an issue that figures quite heavily in the document?
DS: Well yes. I mean this is the satellite telecommunications ordinance or bill, I should say, and it’s intended at the moment to cover V-Sat systems, which are very small aperture terminal systems, which are independent satellite systems, independent in the sense of (being) independent of the Earth Station at Cable & Wireless. And the intention basically is to allow people to have this type of system but for it to be invoiced, if you like, or billed via Cable & Wireless.
SB: The document has a number of examples where people reading it might have an interest in looking at it as it covers a range of different scenarios with people having V-Sats.
DS: Yes, that’s right, I mean, the end of the consultation document is actually quite interesting because I think that’s what a lot of people will head for straight away because it gives you worked examples of various situations, which interestingly enough are called: “Miss Scarlet and Mr Green, Colonel Mustard and Mrs Peacock.” But if we take the Colonel Mustard Example, which will be one which most people will find quite interesting, I think, Colonel Mustard already has a V-Sat system, which has not been taken from Cable & Wireless, so if this bill is enacted, and if it’s approved, then what happens? Well, Colonel Mustard needs to regularise his position. He needs to make a request to Cable & Wireless for them to provide the satellite telecommunications services and using his existing equipment. And then Cable & Wireless would invoice Colonel Mustard with a mark-up of 15%. There are other examples, for example, Miss Scarlet wants to install a new V-Sat system. She identifies a suitable supplier, selects a package from them, decides to buy her own equipment and then you have Mr Green, for example, briefly also decides a V-Sat system and decided not to make the arrangements himself but instead deals with a local agent for V-Sat provider and so on. And, I think Mrs Peacock decides to go through Cable & Wireless and then there’s an example worked through there of a dispute resolution.
SB: And, Chris Doyle had the idea of a number of licences being – Is that an option?
DS: No. That was one of his comments in one of his early papers which he produced about communications in the Falklands and one of his early comments was that perhaps FIG could consider issuing a number of licences for independent satellite telecommunications and equipment for various people who wanted them. In the end, I don’t think that’s in the public’s best interest. I think it’s actually in the public’s best interest to have this, which is a compromise, which enables Cable & Wireless to maintain the existing monopoly but it also limits what can be charged for the service providing, which I think is important and I think that at the end of the day that’s the best thing for the Falklands.
SB: The whole issue of Cable & Wireless’ monopoly status included in the document?
DS: No. This document simply explains the satellite telecommunications ordinance, which is the final part of, if you like what more or less the final part of the revision of the telecommunications Oz – I think he means “ordinance.” There may be one or two other tidy-up exercises that have to happen but this is the main thrust of it. Once we’ve approved this bill – if it gets approved – then the telecommunications ordinance can be re-written with all the various amendments that have been made to it over the years incorporated into one document, which will make it far easier to understand. One of the key issues that was identified way back and this is what would be two years ago now in the economic development strategy. It was one of the huge constraints on not just businesses but also people in general is the lack, if you like, of well you might call western world style provision of internet services in the Falkland Islands. If you are a business that is a high-data user, for example, the over quota limits that are placed by Cable & Wireless who restrict what you can and cannot do. The band-with might cause a restriction might want a VPN network that you want to control yourself. You might decide that it is more secure or you might be in a remote location where getting a Cable & Wireless internet connection would be not possible or practical. Let’s say somebody decided to buy an outside Island and there wasn’t any existing infrastructure. Well, this is actually a relatively cheap means of providing yourself with internet services.
SB: How can people respond to the document?
DS: I think its important people get it; people read it and have a look at the questions that are in it. Some are quite interesting, I mean: “Do you agree the telecommunications ordinance needs to be amended to deal with the provision of satellite telecommunications services?” It’s important that people state their opinions very clearly back to – preferably Andrew Newman or, you know, if they want to write to me that’s not a problem. I will just forward the message on. “Are there other types of satellite communications that could be used in the Falkland Islands and could be covered by these proposals?” You know there’s actually quite a lot of interesting questions in here and, you know “whether people think a 15% as a mark-up is reasonable?” “Do you think there should be the power to vary the mark-up?” “Should there be a bedding-down period before the maximum mark-up could be charged?” There’s lots of things there for people to think about and whether you are potentially a private user of a system like this or a business user of a system like this? We really do want your views back. That’s what a consultation period is all about.
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