CANTO Reaffirms Commitment to Engage Regional Policymakers to Develop ICT Policies that Promote Innovation and Incentivize Investments 

Port of Spain, 2nd March, 2018  –  At the Annual General Meeting of CANTO held in Port of Spain Trinidad from February 4 to 6, 2018, one of the major points for discussion among the delegates was the recent change of position by the Federal Communications Commission (‘FCC’) by removing ‘Net Neutrality’ rules, and restoring a light touch regulations approach to support internet freedom, ‘Open Internet’.

The FCC shared with the meeting that investments by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the US had declined by US$3.6 Billion since the US “Open Internet Order” was implemented in 2015. The FCC found that this lack of network investment by ISPs threatened the US policy objectives, including, bridging the digital divide, promoting innovation and modernizing regulations.

The FCC outlined that having reviewed the evidence and reassessed whether the 2015 Order supported US policy objectives, the FCC decided to revert to the less restrictive regime that underpinned the successful development of the on-line economy in the period up to 2015.

CANTO notes that similar policy driven assessments have resulted in different approaches to internet regulation across the globe, from forbearance from any intervention in Australia to a broader policy approach in the EU which includes stricter rules on the on-line platforms in respect of data and consumer protection and separate investment incentives for networks.

The impact of the FCC 2015 Order on network investment acts a reminder that failing to take account of local market dynamics when making rules can have serious adverse consequences on economies.

Chairman of CANTO and Vice Chair of the Caribbean ICT Collaborative Committee (CICC), Mr Julian Wilkins, in his address to the meeting made the point that:

The Caribbean needs an evidence based approach to any new rules in order to support investment in networks and services for Caribbean people and not the simple importation of rules designed for larger economies with different market dynamics”.

CANTO and its members support the concept of the Open Internet and the general principle that legal content, applications and services should not be blocked. Equally, CANTO and its members recognise the requirement of Operators to run their networks and their corresponding freedom to innovate and develop new services and business models. Effective evidence based regulations must strike this balance. The 2016 CANTO Code of Practice on Safeguarding Open Internet seeks to strike this balance.

CANTO will continue to engage with regional and international policy makers to identify approaches towards the Open Internet which encourage investment in networks and services to connect the unconnected, make services relevant, foster local innovation and employment in the face of global competition and allow the widest participation in the on-line economy by the citizens of the region.