Mitchell, who is also Caricom Head of Government for the Regional Portfolio of Science and Technology, made the comment yesterday while delivering the feature address at the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) 25th anniversary ICT Week at Hyatt Regency hotel, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
Among those present were CTU strategist Selby Wilson, CTU secretary general Bernadette Lewis, Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) chairman Julian Wilkins, Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRoque and Jamaica’s Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, who is also president of CTU. Both LaRoque and Paulwell also agreed roaming charges have to be addressed.
Having assumed office in 2013, Mitchell said, he and his government incurred an exorbitant phone bill due to roaming charges.
“The phone is not roaming. For the first two months, when all of us got into office and I saw the bill I said ‘cut it’. Something is fundamentally wrong. I have to use my own personal phone and don’t feel in conscience I should allow the taxpayers to do so (pay for it).
“If I call my friend in London or New York and call Jamaica and go on Cable & Wireless, the cost is extremely high. You can call India for a few cents. Why should we be able to have to spend all that money? We are late. We are behind and we don’t have time,” Mitchell added.
Picking up the mantle, Paulwell said, “Last year, we were able to get an agreement with Digicel for the purpose of roaming. If you are from Jamaica and you are in Trinidad and Tobago, it would appear as though you are home. I gather they have made some changes to that and we are trying to get clarification because as we speak it is no longer in effect. I just have to ascertain it. Roaming should not happen.
“If we want to achieve integration in telecommunications as we move towards a single space, people in the region should not have to incur those heavy charges. We need to collaborate to get every Caribbean state to sign off and to impose it. Digicel had made some changes. Once you are in the Caribbean, you can treat it as if you are in your domestic market.”
Sharing his sentiments, LaRoque said, “Why should there be a roaming call? You can call from New York to California and not pay. We have to charter a regulatory framework. What is the road map? How long it is going to take us to get there? It can be done.”
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