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News Release November 12, 2002

The Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society has serious concerns about a request from Solomon Telekom Company Ltd to the Solomon Islands government for a renewal for twenty-five years of their exclusive Telecommunication License. Solomon Telekom is the sole carrier for domestic and international telecommunications for the Solomon Islands. It is a joint venture with the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (51%), Cable & Wireless (41.9%) and the Investment Corporation of the Solomon Islands (7.1%).

After lengthy discussion throughout the Pacific Region, which involves many IT professionals, customers, educators, and both local and international advisors, it is a general consensus that the current proposal for a twenty five year duration of exclusive license is extreme, and that period of exclusiveness should be reduced to a more reasonable term.

Telecommunication, as a key part of information and communications technologies (ICT), is internationally recognised as an essential part of the development and poverty alleviation of all states. This well known fact has been highlighted in the Pacific Islands ICT Policy and Strategic Plan document endorsed by the Forum Communication Ministerial Meeting April 2002, as well as many other forums and organizational bodies.

While the Pacific Island Chapter of the Internet Society understands the need to protect investments in the fragile markets that exist in countries such as the Solomon Islands, this has to be weighed against the future needs of emerging national economies, and the rate of change in a global world.

The impact of the developments in ICT over the past twenty-five years has been unforeseeable. A quarter of a century ago the personal computers did not exist, the Internet was limited to a handful of hosts, most Pacific Islands countries were using cumbersome radios to communicate with the rest of the world, in terms of telecommunications some of them had virtually nothing, tele-health and tele-education were only lab projects, paved roads were almost non-existent.

Who can predict what progress developments in these technologies will bring in the coming twenty-five years?

Given the rate of change in this area, what telecommunications company can establish a concrete development plan for the next twenty-five years that requires a complete monopoly over telecommunications services?

The Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society recommends a full public review by the relevant Telecommunications Authority of the request from Solomon Telekom for a 25-year exclusive license for the benefit of Solomon Islanders. It also notes that without substantial government commitment to make available the necessary political and financial support of the Telecommunications Authority, that authority cannot provide the necessary services for the people of the Solomon Islands. It is the government's duty to make sure that telecommunications services are provided in the Solomon Islands to meet all reasonable demands, including:

In order to do this the substantial resources must be available so that all licensed telecommunications carriers can be held accountable with regard to their compliance with licence conditions and carriage service provider rules.

Regionally, the Pacific Island Chapter of the Internet Society represents virtually every Pacific Island nation, and as such, are very much in agreement that it's voice is representative of the needs and opinions of the people where Internet is concerned.

The Internet Society (www.isoc.org) is a not for profit International body whose goal is the advancement of Internet Worldwide. Composed of more than 10,000 individual members and hundred of leading Internet Companies (Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Alcatel, Intelsat, APNIC, ...), the Internet Society is also the umbrella for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that issues Internet Standards. Joining the Internet Society and its Pacific Islands Chapter is open to all individuals. Joining is free.

We hope that our comments can be well taken in the spirit of development and what is best for all Pacific Islanders. It is our goal to bring to light, the many ideas and comments from an ever-growing wealth of experience and teamwork in the Pacific region.

For more information contact: Richard St Clair, Chairman, Pacific Islands Chapter ISOC  stclair@niue.nu 

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