The main telecommunications regulator in the sub-region has rejected an amended agreement between merging telecommunications providers Cable & Wireless Communication and Columbus Communications because of an attempt to increase broadband prices.
“It is unacceptable that at this time when the wordings of conditions agreed to are being finalised, FLOW has announced its intention to increase broadband rates in the territories affected by the merger,” said a statement issued after 32nd regular meeting of ECTEL Council of Ministers the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL).
The statement came in response to the announcement by FLOW, the trading name for Columbus Communications in the region, to increase broadband prices.
At a meeting between the merging parties and ECTEL/NTRC on July 13, 2015, the merging parties expressed their commitment to the goals proposed by the ECTEL Council of Ministers on matters relating to net neutrality and the unrestricted use of Over the Top Services, roaming, a harmonised entry level broadband package and permitting customers to migrate to the most favourable service plan for them, ECTEL said.
ECTEL, which is the telecommunications regulator for Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said the merging parties also committed to working with the Council of Ministers and ECTEL to ensure that services were offered at affordable prices and at the highest quality levels.
During that meeting, the merging parties accepted the conditions proposed by ECTEL for approval of the integration of their business.
These conditions include:
(i) Access by other licenced telecommunications providers to the facilities of the merging parties on a non-discriminatory basis;
(ii) Provision of basic retail broadband internet service in each of the Member States with transmission speeds of at least 5 Mbps, priced per year at not more than 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GNP) per capita;
(iii) Allowing their customers of fixed broadband, fixed voice and subscriber television services to migrate to another plan without the imposition of penalties;
(iv) Compliance with the principles of Internet Neutrality which enables access to content and applications without favouring or degrading access to websites or content.
Subsequently, ECTEL submitted a draft of the Agreement reached for perusal by the merging parties.
On Sept. 14, ECTEL received in response an amended version of the draft Agreement from the merging parties.
“Having reviewed the amendments it was found that they rendered the Agreement unenforceable. The proposed amendments from the merging parties have therefore been rejected by ECTEL,” the regulator said in a statement.
“This announcement goes against the spirit of the discussions between the merging parties and the Regulator. The Council demands that the merging parties honour the commitments including the provision of services at affordable prices, which have been made to the Regulator and also announced publicly.
“It is the Council’s desire to continue to protect the interest of consumers and advocate in the best interests of the citizens of the ECTEL Member States. We encourage all stakeholders including consumer agencies to come together in a united effort to ensure that the merging parties adhere to and not delay implementation of the conditions agreed with the Regulators.
“We will provide full support to the efforts in Grenada to address the situation based on the powers of the Regulator as provided for in the revised Retail Tariff Regulations. All Ministers have committed to passing all outstanding regulations and to expedite the finalization of the Electronic Telecommunications Bill, which are designed to strengthen the powers of the Regulators in the ECTEL Member States,” ECTEL said.