Go with the flow, says Minister Inniss
Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss says he is not troubled by the proposed merger of Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus International Inc, which trade here as LIME and FLOW respectively.
However, an issue which is of great importance and should be addressed, he said, was the lack of regulation of all services provided by telecommunications companies.
Currently, the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) only regulates landline rates within the telecoms sector.
“So while some are being distracted by the talk around the LIME and Columbus merger I am looking down the line in seeing where Barbados needs to be and what we need to do to get there regardless of whoever the telecoms providers are. I will say to Barbadians do not panic. The competent authorities will, as usual, do what they have to do in the best interest of consumers and also service providers in this country,” said Inniss.
He was speaking to reporters today following the opening of Portico, a furniture and accessories showroom at Building #8, Spring Garden Industrial Estate.
While stressing that the matter would be left to the FTC, the Minister said “what I must say though is that there are two issues that I deem to be more important right now.
“One, is for us to move to point where the services provided by all telecommunications companies in Barbados are appropriately licensed and regulated,” said Inniss.
“To me, that is more important than to argue about who is the major shareholder in which company around here. It is to ensure that the services provided are well regulated, which include of course the pricing of such services, the telecoms interconnectivity issues and the mobile services.
“At the end of the day what we want is a very transparent system and one [in which] both consumers and providers of services can feel that they are given a fair hearing, and that the decisions undertaken are in their best interest,” he added.
The Minister of Commerce, who argued that the current situation was by no means “horrible”, warned that competition alone would not keep prices “in tact or service levels in check”.
“That is where regulatory bodies like the FTC must be empowered to do more to regulate the range of services and some of the call centres there in,” he stressed.
The other issue that needs to be addressed, said Inniss, was access by every household on the island to technology and Internet services regardless of socioeconomic class.
Last Thursday, CWC announced that it had reached a conditional agreement to acquire cable TV and Internet provider Columbus International Inc, in a deal worth just over $3 billion.
Inniss confirmed that he had received formal notification of the deal and he had discussions with representatives of both companies “about some broad issues, including the way forward”.
However, the Government spokesman emphasized that he would not be influencing the FTC’s decision on whether the merger would get the green light in Barbados.
“The FTC will do what they are empowered by law to do, which is to thoroughly investigate, pronounce upon and make any decisions they have to make regarding this particular proposal between Cable & Wireless and Columbus, and as I have always done as the minister, I leave it up to them to cooperate and operate in a professional manner, and they will, in the fullness of time make their announcements,” he said.
“Meanwhile, I am not troubled as I see other people have been making some fuss about. I am not troubled by this proposed merger . . . I am optimistic that Barbadians will continue to receive telecommunications services that are available in any developed country and that this economy will benefit from the provision of such services, regardless of who the provider is,” added Inniss.