Brown said he decided to set up the Telecommunications Advisory Committee because he needs an agency to provide him with advice on the rapidly-changing telecommunications industry.
“In the past this role was filled by TCI [Telecom Cook Islands], but what I’m thinking is I want a broader sense of feedback from the general community.”
He explains the voluntary committee won’t be charged with any decision-making role, but rather will be created to “bounce ideas off” about telecommunications.
“There are so many exciting things happening around the world with telecommunications, so we need to make sure we keep up with these developments and pre-empt some of these things.” He notes this is critical for the economic development of the country.
The Computer Man Ltd owner Mike Pynenburg has submitted his expression of interest on behalf of his company and he hopes he won’t be overlooked.
“There have been suggestions that I have a conflict of interest in this area, and I"m sure most people can work out where those suggestions have come from without me having to elaborate on that. However, as I do not sit on the Telecom Cook Islands board, and as I am not a direct competitor of TCI, then I do struggle to understand this claim. I am however a telecommunications user and a customer of TCI, like most everybody else.”
He wants a place on the committee because of his company’s extensive customer base.
“I believe our company represents the widest possible group of telecommunications users in the country and as such we have a genuine interest in ensuring those customers have access to fast, reliable, accessible and cost effective telecommunications services.”
Brown has not yet had a chance to look at the applications, which closed on October 17, since he arrived back in the country last Saturday.
Cook Islands News understands around 25 expressions of interest were submitted.
“If there are that amount of applications, I’m very pleased to hear that,” says Brown, noting he is “looking forward” to going through the merits of each application to decide who will sit on the committee. Around five applicants will be chosen.
Brown has also been examining the petition Mervin Communications director William Framhein circulated to garner public support for the deregulation of the telecommunications industry.
Currently the monopoly of Telecom Cook Islands Ltd is guaranteed under existing legislation and a joint venture agreement with Telecom New Zealand.
The minister said this sort of public interest is what his advisory committee will seek to harness.
“We’re trying to engage the community and get their thoughts on where the industry should go.”
The committee will discuss industry issues and strategise on future plans. Outcomes will be presented to the minister with recommendations, and then the committee will help drive or overlook the delivery of the plans after Brown approves them.