The Policy Framework and Intentions
Telecommunications are a key driver of economic and social development in what continues to be an increasingly fast moving knowledge intensive global environment. Telecommunication services today are akin to the old trade routes which opened up economic opportunities and transformed the global economic environment.
The sector requires dynamic and innovative participation, ensuring the sector delivers on the opportunities and potentials which are and will become available.
A clear policy mandate for the sector is required to enable participants to invest, innovate and deliver services to the community. The Government of the Cook Islands has endorsed the following key policy principles for the sector. The sector should:
• provide affordable and quality telecommunication services to all people in the Cook Islands;
• establish an environment for the sustained adoption of technology which will assist in the public sector delivery of services such as education and health;
• establish an environment where economic services such as banking and commerce can be delivered more effectively and real time;
• establish an environment where services which are/were traditionally delivered by analogue means can be provided through a digital service;
• establish an environment where new services can be quickly provided; and
• be an investor friendly environment for attracting additional investments into the sector.
The Government clearly believes that the provision of world class telecommunications infrastructure and information is the key to rapid economic and social development of the country. The availability of affordable and effective telecommunications for households and businesses is at the core of the vision and a major goal of these principles. The major actions of the Cook Islands Government going forward are aimed at this vision and will include:
• the introduction of a less prescriptive legislative regime;
• changes to management of the spectrum; and
• reduce barriers to enter the telecommunications market.
Additionally, the Government will continue to have a number of roles in the sector including:
• as the policy and law maker;
• a major consumer of telecommunication services;
• hosting an independent regulator; and
• as a minority owner of the incumbent operator, Cook Islands Telecom.
As mentioned previously, telecommunications is, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future a key enabler for the continued economic and social development of the Cook Islands.
As a service based economy the importance of reasonably priced effective telecommunications is a key to continued productivity and growth. Efficient and effective telecommunications is crucial to innovation and the creation of new services within the Cook Islands.
The Government wishes to ensure that the sector is structured in a manner that participants will maximise investment, strive for innovation and aim to provide improve service provision and reduce prices.
The Government wishes to ensure that the people of the Cook Islands have access to universal service which entails the provision of affordable and equitable telecommunications and internet services to every individual or household on demand. Such universal access would encompass at the minimum the following, telephony and internet services need to be:
• provided at affordable rates;
• of good quality and acceptable standards;
• available or accessible regardless of where people are located within the Cook Islands; and
• accessible to a larger proportion of the population of the Cook Islands.
Efficient and reliable provision of telecommunications services
Telecommunications is ubiquitous; this basic service is required by almost all individuals, government agencies and industry. The Government will continue to advocate and promote the efficient and reliable provision of telecommunications services.
A network which meets the needs of the people of the Cook Islands
The Government wishes to see the development of a robust and secure telecommunication network which will provide seamless coverage aimed at closing the digital divide and driving socio-economic development. Essentially, this would revolve around:
• continuing to encourage an inclusive knowledge society by providing for the proliferation of affordable and high quality broadband services across the Cook Islands; and
• allowing for innovation in the sector which will see a faster evolution of the mobile device as an instrument of socio-economic empowerment for Cook Islanders and visitors to the Cook Islands.
The Government believes that continued investment is required to ensure continued development in the sector. Market pressures and competition for the provision of improved and less costly services should lead to greater investments for those firms who wish to meet market demand and keep market share.
Therefore the Government will create greater flexibility in the telecommunications market to ensure a competitive environment exists without compromising but rather complementing its other objectives, in particular universal and affordable access for all Cook Islanders.
Promote efficient interconnection arrangements between network providers and other providers
Competition in the sector will only occur if entrants are able to interconnect their facilities with those of the incumbent or other market players and to do so at terms that allow the entrant to provide the service at competitive levels of price and quality. A ‘fair and reasonable’ interconnection policy is a critical input to foster competition in telecommunication markets.
The spectrum is a key government asset, and as a result it is crucial to promote the efficient use of spectrum.
The Government wishes to regain the management of spectrum. This will see a move towards liberalising spectrum use so that it will enable the use of spectrum in any band to provide any service in any technology and enable optimal utilisation of spectrum through an appropriate regulatory framework.
A new approach to spectrum management will allow the regulator to spectrum and allocate alternative frequency bands or media to service providers from time to time to make spectrum available for introduction of new technologies for telecom applications.
Fair, objective, and transparent Licensing regimes for service providers and network providers
Establishment of a commission to licence the three major areas including:
• spectrum licensing;
• service provider licensing; and
• network provider license
Additionally, it will allow for an efficient approval regime for apparatus.
Government recognises the convergence of electronic media and will take a ‘whole of media’ approach with all forms of telecommunications, including radio and television broadcasting, incorporated into one piece of legislation.