C9 Advocates for Fair Share to Drive Caribbean Telecommunications and Development

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

In 2023, six international big tech companies earned US$11.5 billion from the Caribbean, without contributing or reinvesting any of their revenues into the region’s development. This was revealed by Lisa Agard, the newly appointed Chair of C9, as she participated in a panel discussion on Fair Share, at the CANTO Connect & 40th AGM Celebration at the Hyatt Regency on Monday.

Agard’s appointment as Chair of the C9, a CANTO Working Group of Caribbean Telecommunications Operators advocating for Fair Share, was announced at the CANTO Connect & 40th AGM Celebration. The C9 comprises ATN International, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), Cable Bahamas, Digicel, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), Liberty Latin America, Telesur, The Cable in St. Kitts, and Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).

Agard is an attorney-at-law and a seasoned telecommunications professional with over 24 years’ experience in the Industry. She holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the UWI, and a Master of Laws degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a degree of utter Barrister from the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and was called to the English Bar 987. She has executive management training from INSEAD in France; and the Wharton School of Business; and Columbia University in the United States.

CANTO AGM attendees heard that big tech companies like Alphabet, META, Tik Tok, and Netflix neither create employment nor pay taxes, regulatory fees, or spectrum fees in the Caribbean. Despite their substantial usage accounting for sixty-six percent of all internet traffic in the region, these companies make no financial contributions.

Unlike big tech companies, Caribbean network operators invested over US$500 million per annum in network upgrades and improvements since 2017, amidst the background of flat and declining revenues. In order to ensure the sustainability of regional telecommunications, and fund regional development, everyone needs to pay their Fair Share.

On the topic of measuring ICT and digital development in the region, Agard explained, “There is a strong correlation between digital development and economic development, and the Caribbean will be left behind if these big tech companies continue to reap profits without contributing.”

Fair Share is a global discussion gaining momentum across Europe, South Korea, Brazil, and the United States. The C9 intends to lobby governments, regulators, and industry stakeholders to support new policies and a revision of the telecommunications sector’s structure throughout the region. This is seen as a mechanism to ensure robust, ubiquitous, and affordable ICT infrastructure.

Agard added, “There is significant and incontrovertible evidence that there is market failure in the telecommunications industry in Trinidad and Tobago for example. Recently the position was very thoroughly documented in an expert report of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. Furthermore, twenty-two million people remain unconnected to the internet in this region, with the Caribbean landing a solid twenty points behind Europe in terms of ICT maturity and digital development. This is very concerning, and we have to do what we can to not end up with a two-tier internet world where Europe, Asia and the Middle East get ahead of us, and Africa and the Caribbean are left behind.”

The CANTO Connect AGM served as a platform for telecommunications stakeholders from across the region to engage in discussions crucial for the industry’s future. The event featured interactive brand displays from Digicel Business, Huawei, bmobile, Solution Box and Cable & Wireless, along with several keynote presentations.

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