The lousy telecommunication service the Territory is now enduring was alluded to by Junior Minister for Trade and Investment, Hon. Marlon Penn who said that the situation as it stands was contributed to by Government.
The comment was made during the debate of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act, 2018, and although Hon. Penn did not go into specifics he did allude to the liberalization of the telecommunications industry as a factor.
The Junior Minister told the House: “Whatever laws have passed through this House it is we who passed it through this House…We liberated the telecoms sector to a point where it cannot sustain it, and now we complain about the service that we get. Those are decisions we made.”
Both Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and Minister for Communications Hon. Mark Vanterpool have complained persistently about the level of low quality of internet service the Territory receives. The matter of internet discontent reached its tilt in January when Minister Vanterpool announced that a decision might be made to invite another telecommunications company to the Territory to offer improved service to the many frustrated residents.
The intent to further expand the telecoms market was disclosed by Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Vanterpool during the 24 January public consultation meeting that was held in Road Town. At that time the Minister explained that Government has done enough talking and is now ready to deal harshly with the service providers.
At that time the Minister explained that Government arrived at this point after exhausting communications with the internet service providers and noting that not much has changed. “We have been meeting with them again and in fact we are even looking at the possibility perhaps of opening up the services to those who can perhaps provide it even better. That’s something that we are discussing. We have met with them since Irma.”
Since then the Minister noted that companies have indicated a readiness to fill the service gap. “Since I have said that I have had at least two other internet providers contact me. I will be having meetings with them, but effectively we will be putting forward proposals from a policy standpoint for the government to look at that,” the Minister said.
Pundits believe that increasing the service providers is not a solution: sternly disciplining the locally operating telecoms is a better alternative. “If we cannot discipline three telecoms, how we are going to do better with five or six of them? Where there is a will there is a way! Let’s fix these three,” one commentator said.