St Lucia, CMC – The St Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern States (OECS) Commission is calling for the removal of roaming fees attached to mobile calls between the nine-member sub-regional grouping.
“We’re not talking about the fancy marketing glitz of something called home roaming or anything like that. We want the removal of roaming,” said OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules.
The OECS countries have been arguing that since they have formed a single economic union, they should not have to pay roaming charges between Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St
Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
Jules, speaking prior to leaving here for the OECS summit that opens in the French island of Martinique later on Wednesday, said that “if the OECS is a single economic space, the same way you can make a call from Castries to Vieux Fort, the same way you should make a call from Castries to St Georges or Castries to St John’s.
“It cannot be a roaming call,” he added.
The OECS position comes also against the backdrop of efforts by the sub-region to make Information Communication Technology more accessible and affordable to consumers in the sub-region.
Telecommunication service providers have been calling on government to tax Voice over Internet Protocol applications such as Skype and Viber, which they say are impacting negatively on their businesses.
But Jules said such a position by the service providers is not feasible.
“What these facilities have brought in terms of value for money proposition to the use of the internet and to the cost of doing business especially for small business people and even at a family level for families being able to keep in touch with their loved ones in the Diaspora.
“It cannot be subject to taxation and so on because it is a real material benefit,” he added.
Earlier this week, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said roaming charges pose a challenge to an integrated Caribbean platform and are too costly.
Mitchell, who is also the Caribbean Community (Caricom) head of government with responsibility for Information, Communication and Telecommunication (ICT), told delegates attending the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) 25th anniversary ICT Week in Trinidad that 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.