A newcomer on the domestic telecommunications market or even a satellite service is the plan B and C as government mulls how to fix the ‘banana’ internet services that have been plaguing the Territory for decades. Presently, the Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that he is vesting his confidence in newly appointed Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Board Vance Lewis and Vincent Wattley.
During the two HOA debates of the Motions to appoint Lewis and Wattley during the 27 February sitting of the House of Assembly Hon. Fahie pounded the slow and often buffering internet service that has become the annoying reality of BVI internet users.
The Territory’s internet service which is described by many as poor has been lamented for years and the rectifying of the situation was an unfulfilled campaign promise made by the Government of the day. In recalling this point Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly: “One of the areas that I promise the people is to fix the internet, and I am going to hold true to this government’s promise…”
Hon. Fahie noted that the approach to improve the terrible internet situation the new Chair and Deputy Chair cannot adopt a business as usual approach, but may need to go into the trenches and work with the industry. The Premier declared: “To fix the internet situation in this Territory is going to call for making some tough decisions. We are looking at the TRC board to go in and work with the actual day-to-day manager. And at the board level, make some decisions that will help us to be getting better internet.”
In emphasizing that this was a necessary move the BVI Leader announced that the pillars of the Territory’s economy require efficient and reliable internet as Hon. Fahie declared that this current level of service is unacceptable. “We do more financial services in here than most countries 10 times our size but yet we have the highest bills and one of the worst internet systems.”
Turning to the new TRC heads the Premier announced that there are weighty appointments as he is resting the exhausted situation on their shoulders. “I’m putting a lot of responsibility on this commission when it gets going to deal with this matter head-on. If the companies involved cannot get us better internet and you give them all the chances in the world, bring another one. And if that one can’t give us better internet, get the satellites.”
Hon. Fahie announced that he has heard over a lengthy period the woes about poor internet, the cries of the people on the matter and his own experiences. “Every day that you take up your phone and it’s buffering it’s being redundant, so we have a redundant problem going on for quite a while… nobody can tell me that it cannot be fixed, it can be fixed, it must be fixed.”
“We are putting you there … to work,” he told the new appointees. “And if you don’t get the work done, we don’t intend to fire you, we would just relieve you of your duties so that you can take them up elsewhere because we must get this telecom going,” Hon. Fahie added.
Both appointments were supported by members of the House of Assembly. However, it was noted that the Chair’s appointment had to be agreed to by Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn. In announcing his approval Hon. Penn said he is also anxious to see the internet situation sorted out: “The time is now for the TRC to have a ‘shot in their arm’, to ensure that the leadership is there, to ensure that we hold the telecom providers to account for providing a quality service, not just for the business community, but for the regular consumer.”
“More than ever in the history of this territory we need reliable telecom providers… We are moving to the age of Economic Substance and talking about bringing companies to do business in the Virgin Islands (VI). That requires a sound technological backbone,” Hon. Penn stated.
In further lamenting the need for telecommunications improvement the Leader of the Opposition told his colleagues: “You get complaints on a daily basis from individuals about not getting the service that they are paying for. We are paying top dollar for broadband connectivity but we are not getting the level of services that we are paying for and there is no recourse.”