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Digicel to shut down Claro Jamaica

Published:Friday | January 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM
The headquarters of Claro Jamaica on Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston. - file
Andrew Holness

Debbie-Ann Wright, Assistant News Editor - Radio

Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is set to meet with
telecommunications firm Digicel today following revelations that the
previous administration had removed a key condition it had imposed in
approving the company's merger with Claro.

When then
Prime Minister Bruce Golding approved the merger in August, he insisted
Digicel must continue operating two separate networks.

yesterday, the OUR revealed that just weeks into his tenure as prime
minister, Andrew Holness withdrew the two-network requirement.

With the removal of that condition, Digicel revealed yesterday it would be shutting down Claro in just over a month.

Contacted yesterday for an explanation, Holness said he took his decision after consultation with stakeholders.

He said Digicel had appealed to Golding to reconsider the two-network condition and he inherited the appeal.

the two-network scenario carried the potential of not having one
carrier operating eventually as the deal could have fallen through and a
complete job loss would ensue," Holness told The Gleaner. "It was better in my mind to have a managed merger."

noted that due to the election campaign, there had not been an
opportunity for the decision to be carried through in Parliament, but he
did not see that as an issue as he had discussed the matter with the
then opposition telecommunications spokesman, Phillip Paulwell, who
agreed with the move.

OUR writes to OPM

the media release from the OUR, the body with oversight responsibility
for such matters, stated that "the OUR has not been privy to the
mechanisms governing the new arrangements and has written to the OPM
(Office of the Prime Minister) seeking further details".

the newly appointed information and communications technology minister,
acknowledged he had no difficulty with the change.

"Initially, I believed it was unworkable to ask a company to operate two different networks," Paulwell told The Gleaner last night.

He, however, said the Government would have to work to avert a situation where one company establishes a monopoly in the market.

said he would be immediately reviewing proposed legislation aimed at
encouraging competition. Among the chief issues he wants resolved is the
rate of calls between networks.

The OUR said during today's
meeting it would seek to have Digicel provide the requisite information
to enable the office to respond to complaints from customers.

regulatory body said Claro customers have been complaining about
difficulties accessing the network and credit for their phones.

Meanwhile, in a release a few hours after the OUR statement, Digicel announced it would shut down the Claro network on March 1.

The company said the shutting down of the Claro network would allow it to operate more efficiently.

Digicel said, beginning next week, it would be inviting them to migrate to the Digicel network.

It said Claro customers who choose to go over to the Digicel network would be able to keep their Claro phone numbers.

month, the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit in the Supreme
Court to prevent the Digicel-Claro deal from being finalised.

The FTC is arguing that the transaction will likely result in higher prices and a slowdown in technological advancements.