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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.

Minister Donville Inniss

Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss

“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.

7 Responses to Go with the flow, says Minister Inniss

  1. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe November 11, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Our continued failure to truly understand the value of technology and its roll in the region’s development future will result in us being left behind in the technology driven world we live in today. In one breath we talk support for IT innovation and entrepreneurship, and in the next breath we support one of the most repressive companies in these two areas the world has ever seen. When the emerging generations of Internet developers and entrepreneurs in the region can’t access the full breath of Internet capabilities, due to IT restrictions and pricing designed to keep all the money in the pockets of big telecommunications providers like C&W “we all lose”. It’s time to invite organizations like the barbados ICT association to share their hands-on take at the risk to our IT industry by the proposed acquisition of Flow by C&W. Governments are here to do who corporations won’t for the people as often there is more to consider beyond the financial bottom line. Just as you seek medical advise when ill our government officials need to go beyond the thinly veiled manly talking points, and try to get the IT industry’s perspective on this acquisition. “Going with the flow over a cliff often does not end well”

    • Linda Freeman
      Linda Freeman November 11, 2014 at 6:03 am

      Well said…. And might I add who benefits not us the consumers because in a matter of mere months the rates that were offered to us by Flow will all go through the window, Back to slow service or no service at all and try speaking to a non english speaking customer agent, that if called try asking for a number listed only to be told that the number isn’t listed and having to speak with the person as though speaking to a 2 year old smdh

  2. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe November 11, 2014 at 4:38 am

    This is what Obama just said in the US, he gets the importance of technology.
    Our government officials need to as well. Shared with the C&W acquisition of Flow in mind.

    “An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.
    ‘Net Neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today I am asking the Federal Communications Commission to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect Net Neutrality.

    The president goes on to say:

    To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past. For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call, or a packet of data.
    So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.

    Obama’s words arrive at a crucial moment in the fight for real Net Neutrality. For months and months, his appointee to head the Federal Communications Commission has put forward convoluted, loophole-ridden proposals to avoid reclassifying broadband under Title II. Both FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s original slow-lane-creating “706” proposal and the baffling “hybrid” currently under consideration would endanger the open Internet as we know it.

    The FCC is an independent agency, but the president appointed its commissioners who pay attention to what he says. Today’s statement sends a clear message to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: Stop messing around and get on the surest path to protecting the open Internet.

    Why is the administration suddenly so vocal? There’s only one answer: unprecedented public pressure. Nearly 4 million people have weighed in at the FCC for real Net Neutrality — by far the most comments received in the agency’s history. And over the past 10 months, activists have staged an escalating series of actions, rallies and people’s hearings on the issue. The phones have been ringing off the hook at the White House for weeks.

    A broad coalition of public interest advocates, netroots organizers, grassroots leaders and innovative businesses have joined together to push for strong Net Neutrality rules. We’ve resisted half-baked compromises and business as usual in Washington to keep advocating for the policies that will actually preserve the open Internet. And today President Obama became our standard-bearer.

    I haven’t been shy about criticizing this administration in the past — and I won’t hesitate to do so in the future. But today, Internet users everywhere should thank President Obama and his staff. Today, they just might have saved the Internet.

  3. jr smith November 11, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Here we go again ,another politician mouthing off, what he is saying ,regulation should have happen two decades ago, nothing effects politicians , because whether they are useless or not they get they pay and perks.-
    Mr politician, we need other communication businesses moving into Barbados, the industry is a cartel, bajans are always going to get a bad deal, because the interest of some people comes first and nothing is done for the interest of the people/Bajans.

  4. DeShurf November 11, 2014 at 8:11 am

    When cable and wireless was charging for making and receiving callings, where was FTC and government. Where were they when you had a high phone bill for calls you didn’t make. I wish I had nothing to do with cable and wireless/lime. So the minister mouth like a stand pipe that want a washer…

  5. Patrick Blackman November 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Is this Minister on drugs?

  6. maria chandler November 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    The new FLOW gives you SERVICE & you speek to some one in BDOS NOT in another ISLAND when you give an address ..sorry miss i do not know where that is or IT IS NOT LISTED most important you get help Fast to hook up to FLOW all you needed was a pole # & in about 4 to 5 days you are up and running .t


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