Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Digicel moves to set the record straight

Published:Friday | June 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

I feel compelled to respond to the latest public relations spin by LIME/Flow in the column titled "Flow Asserts Merger Benefits" (published on June 15, 2015) and to set the record straight. This column makes some truly extraordinary claims and I wonder if it is trying to hoodwink the Jamaican people?

LIME has constantly delayed the introduction of number portability in Jamaica but now appears to be taking credit for its pending introduction. The Regulator required that this would be launched on May 31 and Digicel was ready, but at the last minute, LIME said it had not done the work required and was not ready. Instead of trying to spin its way out of its own foot dragging, we hope that LIME will now keep its promises and be ready on the new launch date - June 22nd.

The column argues that the monopoly created by the merger of LIME and Flow is good for Jamaica. It compares this to the Digicel acquisition of the Claro mobile business some years ago. The Digicel acquisition of Claro did not create a monopoly and was subject to rigorous approval conditions. Digicel complied with all obligations and undertakings, which were given as part of its approval. Digicel did not retain all of the Claro spectrum and the claim that we did is simply wrong. The LIME/Flow merger is about a new monopoly over fixed telephones and fixed Internet in Jamaica and pointing the finger at Digicel seems to be nothing more than an attempt to distract. It is hard to understand why such false claims were made if not to mislead the public.

On this point, the column suggests that a level playing field was created which somehow enabled LIME to compete against Digicel. This is another attempt to rewrite history. Prices came down from the monopoly prices charged by LIME because there was competition in the market by Digicel. The danger of the new LIME/Cable & Wireless monopoly is that without competition, the Jamaican people will once again be faced with monopoly-quality services at monopoly prices.

For this reason, it is very important that LIME observes all of the conditions it has agreed to as part of the approval of the merger with Flow. LIME now has a monopoly on the cables linking Jamaica to other countries and Digicel believes that it cannot be good for competition that one company controls all of the international cables linking Jamaica to the Internet because without competition, consumers in Jamaica may have to pay higher prices to use the Internet.

It is time for LIME to lay out the 'conditions' they agreed to - in the interests of transparency - and what they are doing about meeting those conditions. So far, things don't look too good as LIME has already delayed number portability and there has been no progress in allowing Digicel and others to access the infrastructure needed to roll out competing Internet networks. These delays are delaying competition.

The bad old days of spin by the LIME/Cable & Wireless monopoly truly seem to be back. The final paragraph of the column - where they ask the public not to engage in debate is alarming. The idea seems to be that people should "believe LIME and stay quiet" but people in Jamaica have the right to say no to monopoly and to demand that competition is not blocked or delayed.

The development of Internet and telecommunications is vital for the Jamaican economy. This cannot be left to a new LIME/Cable & Wireless monopoly and I encourage everyone to engage in this debate and help shape the future of this country.

David Butler

CEO, Digicel Jamaica