By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
Minister responsible for telecommunications Mark Vanterpool has disclosed that Government intends to put legislation in place to facilitate local number portability in the British Virgin Islands.
Local number portability essentially allows a cellphone customer to change telecom provider without having to change phone number.
“We do in the ministry intend to bring forward legislation along this line… We are fully in favour of it; we are pursuing it; and I believe that it will happen,” Vanterpool told the House of Assembly yesterday (June 13) in response to questions posed by Opposition member Julian Fraser.
The minister said: “I wish I could tell him (Fraser) it could happen tomorrow, because I am strongly in favour of it. But we are pursuing it and, when we reach a further stage, I will be happy to inform the member as to our progress.”
Vanterpool further stated that implementation of number portability is not as simple as some persons may think.
“It is not as simple as it sounds because it involves the carriers who have numbers that they consider specific to them, and therefore they will have to make adjustments and allow numbers to be used across carriers – the codes that they use. It is not impossible but it has implications.”
“We have been discussing the matter at the regional forums to come up with a legislative agenda on it (number portability) so that carriers will be forced to conform with the possibility of it,” added Vanterpool.
He disclosed that a final decision will be made after a research is done urgently.
“We, for the last year or so, have been discussing with the providers and also through the entire Caribbean region; and all the Caribbean countries are in the same vein, wanting to make this a possibility,” Vanterpool said.
Some Caribbean countries already have launched number portability. The Cayman Islands launched it in 2012, Dominican Republic in 2009, and Jamaica in June 2015.
Vanterpool, in relation to the British Virgin Islands, said: “The Ministry of Communication and Works is currently conducting research on local number portability, which includes both technical and non-technical aspects to make it functional. [It also] required legislative amendment where possible; and potential cost implications. Once this research has been completed, a decision will be made to determine whether or not to pursue this initiative as a territory.”
Fraser blames Flow
In the meantime, Fraser, who had raised questions about the likelihood of having number portability locally, claimed that the process is not as difficult as the telecom minister is making it out to be.
“It is simple; it is simpler than you [the telecom minister] making it sound,” added Fraser.
He implied that the telecom minister is short-sighted, and that the major stumbling block is telecom provider Flow.
The Opposition member, however, did not explain why he singled out Flow.
He said: “The number of [phone] number that we have in this country, if it on a piece of paper, I could fold it up and stick it in one pocket. Big United States and most other industrialized countries are doing it (number portability). The one culprit is Flow; that’s the one culprit really. You talking about carriers?”
“The minister for communications and works needs to work with the people of this territory. Where there is no vision, the people perish. We have to get this thing done. It’s not a matter of regional; it is local. This is local,” Fraser further told the House.
He also scoffed at the telecom minister’s announcement that a research will be undertaken.
“What research are you doing on something that’s routine throughout the rest of the world – especially the developed world? What research are you doing? You either going to do it (implement number portability) or you not going to do it,” added Fraser.
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