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Consumers advised to use NTRC for settling disputes with telecoms providers

Consumers advised to use NTRC for  settling disputes with telecoms providers

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Persons have once again been encouraged to use the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to settle disputes that they may have with local telecoms providers.{{more}}

The advice came on Tuesday, March 19, during an NTRC community discussion, which was held at the Learning Resource Centre in South Rivers.

“Are you having issues with telecommunications services being provided by LIME, Digicel or Karib Cable? Let us know!” was the focus of the community discussion which was the first such forum that the NTRC has put on in 2013.

Accountant at the NTRC Rohand Charles told the gathering that persons do not realize that the NTRC can help them when they have certain types of problems with any of their telecommunications providers.

He said that the NTRC came into effect by the passing of the Telecommunications Act 2001 , while the St Vincent and the Grenadines Telecommunications (Dispute Resolutions) Regulations 2007 ensures that the NTRC can and will do everything in its power to help consumers when they have a dispute.

He stressed that the latter act can work in the consumer’s favour during disputes with providers. He added that recently Green Party Leader Ivan O’Neal won a case against LIME and was rewarded monetarily.

“We have an avenue whereby persons can have their disputes addressed, but most persons are unaware of this”, said Charles.

He said that telecommunications providers by law are required to have readily available NTRC complaint forms that can be filled out by the consumer and either handed back to the provider or taken to the NTRC’s base, located in the National Insurance Services (NIS) building on Upper Bay Street.

Charles also explained the other functions of the NTRC, which include to plan, supervise, regulate and manage the use of the radio frequency spectrum, to collect fees and any other charges under the Telecommunications Act or regulations and to regulate prices for telecommunications services.

The meeting also heard from Universal Service Fund (USF) Administrator Kyron Duncan, who explained what the USF is.

The USF is of one per cent of the gross revenue of the telecommunications providers. The USF was launched locally on Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at the Conference room of the NIS by the NTRC. He said that the USF is used to compensate any Telecommunications provider who is required to provide or promote Universal Service which includes “the provision of Public voice telephony, Internet access, telecommunication services to schools, hospitals and similar institutions and other services by which people access efficient, affordable and modern telecommunications”.

The NTRC also is also funded by license and radio frequency fees collected from the various radio stations and maritime mobile radios.

Duncan said that, so far, the USF has been used to fund, among other things, a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which allows a vessel in distress at sea to send out an SOS signal just by pressing a button on a VHF radio. The GMDSS was officially launched on Tuesday, October 2nd. The USF was also used to fund the reintroduction of pay phones, a project which is currently ongoing, while it was also used to fit all the schools and learning resource centres in the country with free wireless Internet.

Also students enrolled at the various tertiary level institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines will soon be able to—via real time—access their various classes from a computer, as the NTRC through use of the USF, is currently working on the ‘Smart Project’, which will enable students that are not able to attend classes for whatever reason, to stay at home and view their classes online, using a computer and an Internet connection.

Meanwhile, persons at the discussion used the opportunity to voice their concerns about a number of problems they encounter, especially with cable provider Karib Cable.

One woman, a farmer, questioned whether the NTRC can do the same for farmers as they did for the seamen with the setting up of the GMDSS, as she says that there are areas in the mountains where farming is carried out and there is no cell coverage.

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