Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

U.S. and FSM hold Joint Telecommunications Board (JTB) Meeting in Yap

Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Department of Transportation, Communication & Infrastructure): August 20, 2009 - In the original and Amended Compact of Free Association of the U.S. and the Federated States of Micronesia, the two countries agreed to discuss telecommunications matters through a Joint Telecommunications Board (JTB). In accordance with the Compacts, the U.S. and the FSM would designate a "Competent Authority" that would represent their respective country in Government to Government (G2G) discussions on telecommunications related matters.

While the JTB meetings are bilateral discussions, the meetings are coordinated and attended by the other Compact Nations, including the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The last meeting of the JTB was held in 2007 in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The JTB did not meet in 2008. In 2009, the JTB was held in Yap State. The JTB in Yap was chaired by Secretary of DTC&I, Francis Itimai who was elected with acclamation to chair the Joint Meeting, and the Vice Chairman elected was Minister Jackson Ngiraingas of ROP. Mr. Hal Grisby heading the US Delegation was elected rapporteur. The Republic of the Marshall Islands was not able to attend this meeting due to prior commitments on their schedule.

The U.S. Delegation was led by Honorable Hal Grigsby, the Competent Authority from the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Delegation also included Christopher Lewis, the Spectrum Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Interior; Dr. John Fairlamb of the Space Missile Defense Command (SMDC) in Alabama; and Mr. Nicholas Koopelethes, a telecommunications consultant to the U.S. Government.

The Republic of Palau was represented by Mr. Isaac N. Soaladaob, the Honorable Chief of Staff for the Republic of Palau, the Honorable Jackson Ngiraingas, Minister of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce, and Mr. Hayes Moses, Acting Director of the Bureau of Commerce.

The FSM Delegation that participated in the JTB with the U.S. Delegation included the Honorable Francis Itimai, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure (DTC&I) and the FSM Competent Authority for Communications; the Honorable Sebastian Anefal, Governor of Yap and former Secretary of the FSM Department of Foreign Affairs; Mr. James Naich, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the FSM Embassy to the United States; Mr. Jolden Johnnyboy, the Assistant Secretary for Communications for DTC&I, Mr. Moses Nelson, the Executive Director of the Micronesian Shipping Commission (MSC) and Advisor to DOTC&I; and other FSM and Yap State Officials, including the Honorable Henry Falan, Yap State Senator and Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Health and Government Welfare, Mr. James Gilmar, Director of Health Services Department, Yap State and FSMTC Board Member, the Honorable Jesse R. Subolmar, Senator Yap State, and Mr. Peter Garamfel, Yap Branch Manager for FSMTC . Dr. Norman H. Okamura, a Faculty Specialist in Telecommunications of the University of Hawai`i, provided consultative assistance to the FSM delegation.

Bilateral Meeting between the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia - Prior to the JTB, a bilateral meeting between the RoP Delegation and FSM Delegation was conducted. The two countries discussed four areas of mutual telecommunications interest: submarine fiber optic cable system; the proposal by the RoP for participation in the U.S. National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA); legal reform- competition and regulation; to further explore and ensure eligibility of the US-recognized land grant institutions in the FAS for telecom assistance provided under the American Recovery and Investment Act, known popularly as President Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan, and to ensure that the continued relevance and effictiveness of the JTB to seek the means for defraying the costs for the operations or activities for JTB as called forth under the Amended Compact.

The two countries updated each other on these topics. Minister Ngiraingas noted that the RoP was seeking submarine fiber optics capacity and would continue to work with the FSM so that a Palau-Yap-Guam SFOC could become a reality. The RoP was continuing to pursue participation in NECA. With respect to competition and regulation, Minister Ngiraingas shared with FSM that since there was already competition in Palau, the Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) had requested that a Task Force be established to discuss the needed laws and regulation. The two countries agreed to continue working together on the common agenda.

The actual JTB began with a general meeting among the U.S., the RoP, and the FSM. During the plenary meeting, the U.S. delegation provided an overview of new submarine fiber optics cable systems in the Asia-Pacific region (including the Australian PIPE cable system that would be laid in part through the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Federated States of Micronesia) and two other Asia-Pacific SFOC systems.

The Delegation from Palau, through the Chief of Staff, made an intervention announcing that the new Competent Authority for ROP now is the Minister of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce.

FSM-US bilateral discussions were held two days later. Among the many topics discussed were the following:

  • Submarine Fiber Optics and Broadband Telecommunications,

  • U.S. policy of telecommunications competition,

  • Interest of the FSM in the National Exchange Carriers Association,

  • The need for G2G discussions in accordance with the Amended Compact and options for broadband telecommunications in the FSM,

  • The state of telecommunications in the FSM, and

  • Frequency coordination issues with the FSM.

In terms of the Submarine Fiber Optics and Broadband Telecommunications, the FSM reminded the U.S. of the Article XII of the Amended Compact, which states that:

"[T]he Government of the United States and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, recognizing the progressive development of telecommunications infrastructure for their mutual benefit and the importance of incorporating advances in technology in this development, shall enter into negotiations for the purpose of concluding such subsidiary arrangements as may be necessary to make available, so far as is possible, to the people of the Federated States of Micronesia and to the Government of the United States, a rapid, efficient, reliable and cost-effective wire and radio communication service, including broadband services such as fiber optic cable." [underscore added for emphasis]

In accordance with Article XII, the FSM requested the U.S. to work with the FSM to establish "subsidiary arrangements" to ensure that all four states have broadband connectivity through submarine fiber optics cable systems.

For Competition and Liberalization of Telecommunications, the FSM also requested a clarification on whether the U.S. policy is to encourage competition in telecommunications. In an August 2008 meeting that included Former Ambassador Gross, Ambassador George, Hal Grigsby (U.S. Competent Authority), DCM James Naich, and FSM Consultant Dr. Okamura, Ambassador Gross underscored the role of the U.S. to promote competition and equal access to fiber capacity throughout the world.

The U.S. and FSM delegations also discussed other technical options for lessening broadband telecommunication costs. Specifically, the JTB discussed the options of emerging Middle Earth Orbiting (MEO) satellite systems as the O3B (Other 3 Billion) is proposing and the possibilities of using repeaterless SFOC systems.

When they discussed "Participation in the National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA)" the FSM also raised the issue of the participation in the U.S. NECA programs. Specifically, the FSM observed that the U.S. enables the territories to participate in the National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA) program. The FSM further noted that the Republic of Palau has been requesting participation in the NECA and that the Micronesian leaders supported the ability of the Compact States to participate in the NECA on an "opt-in or opt-out" basis at the last Micronesian Chief Executive Summit. The FSM delegation noted that the MCES included the U.S. territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands that already participate in the NECA programs.

Under Government to Government (G2G) Telecommunications Matters, the U.S. and FSM discussed the importance of G2G communications on telecommunications matters in accordance with the Amended Compact. The FSM also noted that the FSM Telecommunications Corporation is a public corporation and should not be making telecommunication policy decisions for the FSM and the States.

For State of Telecommunications in the FSM, the FSM explained that a survey of State Leaders was being conducted to assess telecommunications. The FSM noted that three States would be surveyed. The U.S. Competent Authority was interested in the results and the FSM agreed to send a copy following its release to the President and the States. A copy of the survey results can be accessed by clicking on the following link: http://www.fsmpio.fm/RELEASES/2009/august/results.html

Lastly, for Frequency Coordination between the U.S. and the FSM, the U.S. requested that the FSM maintain the Spectrum 21 database in accordance with agreed-upon procedures. The FSM explained that it had staffing problems and needs additional training on the use of the complex Spectrum 21 software that the U.S. provides use of at no charge to the FSM.

The next Joint Telecommunications Board meeting will be hosted by the United States, although the date and location was not agreed upon since the Republic of the Marshall Islands was not present.

For further information regarding the JTB Meeting, please contact the Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure at (691) 320-2381/2865.


For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356
e-mail: fsmpio@mail.fm
http://www.fsmpio.fm/