Trinidad & Tobago Computer Society statement on the intent by Cable and Wireless Communications PLC to acquire Columbus International

Trinidad & Tobago Computer Society Statement on
the intent by Cable and Wireless Communications PLC to acquire Columbus International

The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) notes with concern the November 6th 2014 announcement by Cable and Wireless Communications PLC (C&W) of C&W’s intent to acquire Columbus International.

We feel that this acquisition will lead to very high ownership concentrations in Caribbean-wide wireline services (voice and broadband internet) and subsea fiber links. In some markets this acquisition will also remove the prospect of healthy competition in mobile telephony services.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago (TSTT) will experience the intolerable position of competing with a shareholder that is privy to all its plans (C&W owns 49% of TSTT, while the Trinidad and Tobago Government is a majority shareholder of National Enterprises Limited (NEL), the latter which owns 51% of TSTT) and may have veto power on its investment programs. If the merged entity were to gain controlling interest in TSTT, the resulting combination would absolutely dominate all broadband and wireline telephony services and would be in an excellent strategic position to extend this dominance to the wireless voice and broadband market.

Even if C&W were to sell its TSTT shares, it is unlikely that a small national player will be able to compete with much larger, geographically diversified and well capitalized competitors. It is important to note that TSTT would NOT be an attractive acquisition target for anyone but C&W, given its small size and weak competitive position and that it is the GoRTT that may be forced to acquire C&W’s TSTT shares. In a sense the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago may end up partially funding the merger of C&W Communications and Columbus International.

Ultimately, the TTCS sees the proposed merger as reversing two decades of solid progress in liberalizing the local telecommunication sector and feel that the residential and business consumers will lose many of the benefits of intense competition between C&W/TSTT, Columbus Flow and Digicel.

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TTCS, ISOC-TT and IEEE-TT Joint Statement on Digicel Trinidad and Tobago’s ban on VOIP Services

The following is a press release of the joint statement from
the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society,
the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter and
the IEEE Trinidad and Tobago Section on
Digicel’s Trinidad and Tobago’s  ban on Voice over IP services.

PDF version of press release:

A longer version of the statement can be viewed at TTCS-ISOC-TT-IEEE-TT-response-to-Digicels-ban-on-VOIP-services or at https://docs.google.com/a/ttcsweb.org/document/d/13pfWE4S6Rr3IwSntEFRdawpxdbnHXrSgpzQ2wcfp3YU/edit


Joint Statement from the
Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society,
Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter &
IEEE Trinidad and Tobago Section

on Digicel Trinidad and Tobago’s ban on VOIP Services

Summary of Issue

On the 5th July, 2014, Digicel (Trinidad and Tobago) announced  that it will be blocking access to Voice over IP (VoIP) applications it considers to be  ‘unlicensed’ or “unauthorized” on  its “4G” service. The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS),
the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter (ISOC-TT) and the IEEE Trinidad and Tobago Section (IEEE-TT) consider this to be a grave error, and wish to make a public statement on this matter,  both from a technical perspective and a social one.

 

Our position

It is the position of the TTCS, ISOC-TT and IEEE-TT that this move is a violation of the concept of “Network Neutrality” as defined by Wu. We are of the firm belief that this move puts us, as Internet users, on a slippery slope, as it may well pave the way for the banning of  other important Internet services for learning, innovation and productivity which use much more bandwidth.

Given that customers are paying for Internet data service, it is not accurate for Digicel to state that VoIP services amount to “illegal bypass activity”. Digicel is effectively asking that both consumers and suppliers pay for the same service.

While we understand the need to ensure the integrity of their service, from a technical perspective, there is no reason to single out VoIP connections as a large consumer of bandwidth that can reduce the Quality of Service enjoyed by other customers as the throughput for a VoIP connection is very small (on the order of 20kbps). Compared to services such as YouTube, Netflix or even browsing media-rich web pages (on the order of hundreds of kbps), throughput required by VoIP applications is negligible. Therefore, the argument that services such as VoIP has a significant impact on other data services is inaccurate (unless the number of  VoIP users is very very much greater than the number of non-VoIP users).

The reasoning given by Digicel TT for the move that “VOIP services (are) putting enormous pressures on bandwidth – and customers’ data usage experience (is) being negatively impacted” is also misleading since it is not technically possible for Digicel to give priority to VoIP traffic on their current data  network. In their current system,  VoIP traffic is treated just as any other data service.

We can only conclude, therefore, that the reason for the proposed ban is to stop the loss of  revenue from traditional circuit switched voice services rather than any move to protect the integrity of its data service to customers.

It is important that Internet service providers are committed to the concept of Network Neutrality in Trinidad and Tobago so as to encourage innovation and avoid the potential of censorship. Digicel should certainly backtrack on this move, in the interest of national development. The  Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) should engage all stakeholders in a broader discussion with respect to how we should move forward on the issue of Network Neutrality. TATT should also strive towards making a more competitive environment by accelerating the introduction of a 3rd service provider as well as accelerate the long promised implementation of Number Portability to promote the competitiveness in the telecommunications space that would prevent similar anti-consumer, anti-innovation and anti-economic growth policies.


 

Draft Policy Document and Proposed Amendments to the Telecommunications Act (2013)

On May 6, 2013, the Ministry of Science and Technology of Trinidad and Tobago via the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) posted two documents for public comment. They are the:

The submission of comments was June 3 2013 but this deadline was extended to Tuesday 09 July 2013.

The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) submitted its comments on the draft policy for (and proposed amendments to) the Telecommunications Act, using the comment submission form posted on TATT’s website:

 

smartTT National ICT Plan (2012)

2012 Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education ad promoting the online consultation of the National ICT Plan from 26 April to 13 May 2012
2012 Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education ad promoting the online consultation of the National ICT Plan from 26 April to 13 May 2012

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education (MSTE) and iGovTT launched a series of consultations on the National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Plan 2014-2018 on Wednesday 21 March 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel which culminated in a two-day Conference on July 11 2012 as the final point of consultation on the Draft National ICT Plan.

Read MSTE/iGovTT press ad on April 2, 2012 (PDF ; 1.3MB) which reported on the initial consultations and the schedule for consultations. Persons were also invited to comment on the draft ICT plan at http://www.ictconsultations.gov.tt/

The draft National ICT Plan dubbed “smartTT” focused on 5 thematic areas to guide the implementation of ICT development agenda for Trinidad and Tobago. The five themes were:

  • Innovation and Human Capital Development,
  • Access and Digital Inclusion,
  • e-­‐Business and ICT Sector Development
  • Infrastructure Development
  • e-­‐Government.

The plan was predicated on the National ICT vision which is to create

“A dynamic knowledge based society, driven by the innovative use of ICTs to enhance the social, economic and cultural development of the
people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) also submitted comments to the National ICT Consultation.

On July 11 2012 at the start of the two day conference,  attendees were shown the draft smartTT ICT Plan for 2012-2016

Read/View smartTT Draft ICT Plan 2012-2016 (PDF ; 18MB ; 58 pages)

Jacqueline Morris also managed to do a ustream live webcast during the first day of the July 11 2012 conference.

Interception of Communications Act 2010

The Interception of Communications Bill 2010 was laid in the House of Representatives by the Minister of National Security, Senator Brigadier John Sandy.

The Bill seeks to “provide for and about the interception of communications, the acquisition and disclosure of data relating to communications, the acquisition of the means by which electronic data protected by encryption or passwords may be decrypted or accessed and other related matters.”

From the text of The Interception of Communications Bill 2010 :

This Bill seeks to provide the legal framework within which public or private communications, which are being transmitted by means of a public or private telecommunications network, can be lawfully intercepted. An interception of communication is lawfully done only when it is done pursuant to a warrant issued by a Judge on an application by an authorized officer. Consequently, it is an offence for a person intentionally to intercept a communication being transmitted without an order of the Court. In general, a warrant would be issued only to investigate, prevent or detect a specified offence, and would be valid for an initial period of ninety days, but may be extended by the Court for two further periods, each for ninety days. The Bill also makes provision for an oral application for a warrant in urgent circumstances, subject to certain safeguards. Finally, the Bill provides that the content of a communication or communication data, which is lawfully obtained, is admissible as evidence in any criminal proceedings.

The introduction of the bill follows a statement by the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on November 12 2010 in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament House of Representatives of concerning the unregulated interception of communication of several individuals by an agency of the state,as well as the Special Anticrime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT).

The Bill went into Committee Stage in the House of Representatives. The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago was invited by the Parliamentary Committee for its comments and the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) forwarded some comments on the Bill to the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago on November 23 2010.

Amendments to the Bill were made in the House of Representatives and the Bill went to the Senate where it also went into Committee Stage and further amendments made.

The Bill was assented to in December 3 2010 and proclaimed by the President in mid December 2010.

On December 7 2010, a Bill titled “Interception of Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2010” in the Senate. This Bill seeks to amend Clause 26 in the Interception of Communications Act 2010 to add “, subject to negative resolution of Parliament,” after the word “Order”.

Clause 26 of the Interception of Communications Act would therefore now read

“The Minister may by Order, subject to negative resolution of Parliament, amend any of the Schedules to this Act.”

The Schedules to this Act documents the Application for a Warrant, the Statutory Declaration in support of an application for a warrant, and the form to notify the Minister of National Security.

The Interception of Communications (Amendment) Bill 2010 was passed in the Senate on the same day (December 7 2010) and was subsequently introducted and passed in the House of Representatives on December 10 2010. It was assented to on the December 20 2010.