Published On: Thu, Feb 1st, 2024

Big tech benefits but does not contribute to digital development in the Caribbean

PHILIPSBURG — CANTO, the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators, focused its attention on big tech companies that earn major revenue and contribute nothing to the IC infrastructure in the Caribbean during its Connect and 40th GM Celebration at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad and Tobago this week.

Lisa Agard, the newly appointed chair of C9, addressed the issue during a panel discussion about Fair Share. Members of C9 are ATN International, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), Cable Bahamas, Digicel, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), Liberty Latin America, Telesur, The Cable in St. Kitts, and Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).

Agard said that six international big tech companies earned $11.5 billion from the Caribbean “without contributing or reinvesting any of their revenue into the region’s development.”

Among the tech companies Agard referred to are Alphabet, META, TikTok, and Netflix, saying that these companies don’t create employment, and don’t pay taxes and regulatory or spectrum fees in the Caribbean.

“Despite their substantial usage accounting for 66 percent of all internet traffic in the region, these companies make no financial contributions,” Agard said. On the other hand, Caribbean network operators have been investing $500 million each year in network upgrades since 2017. All this while revenue remained flat or declined. “To ensure the sustainability of regional telecommunications and to fund regional development, everyone needs to pay their fair share.”

Agard, who is a seasoned attorney, pointed out the strong correlation between digital and economic development. “The Caribbean will be left behind if these big tech companies continue to reap profits without contributing.”

Agard said that there is market failure in the telecommunications industry in Trinidad and Tobago.”Twenty-two million people remain unconnected to the internet in the region. The Caribbean is twenty points behind Europe in terms of ICT maturity and digital development. We have to do what we can to not end up with a two-tier internet world where Europe, Asia and the Middle East get ahead of us, and Africa and the Caribbean are left behind.”


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