Communications and entertainment provider Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) is hinting that unless certain “patently unfair” regulations are lifted, it would be forced to give second thoughts to its level of investments here.
CWC is contending that outdated laws governing fixed voice – or landline – business place it at a competitive disadvantage.
And while the president of the company’s Caribbean operations Garfield Sinclair promised that CWC’s local telecommunications firm Flow was in Barbados for the long haul, he said it was important that changes be made to the regulations to better reflect the current market conditions.
“As long as we get a more accommodating regulatory environment that doesn’t single us out for regulation in the space I believe we will continue to invest in the kinds of areas that are going to advance the prospects for the average Barbadian citizen and help improve the overall Barbadian economy,” Sinclair told the media Wednesday at a roundtable at Flow’s headquarters in Warrens, St Michael.
At issue is the section of the Telecommunications Act which empowers the Fair Trading Commission to charge the company certain fees based on its history as the dominant player in the landline business, fees that its competitors in the mobile sector do not have to pay.
The telecommunications boss said this was happening at a time when the landline business had been declining, not only in Barbados, but the world over.
“What we are saying now is that the regulation needs to recognize the fact that the dominant mode of voice traffic is mobile, that market couldn’t be anymore competitive and that we need not now be the only ones that are subjected to this fixed voice based regulation which was a throwback to the past when fixed voice was the dominant [mode] of voice traffic. But that was decades ago. Today the dominant means of talking and voice is mobile. Yet my mobile competitor is not subjected to the regulatory impediments that we are,” Sinclair explained.
The CWC executive could not immediately say what percentage of the market or of the company’s business was generated through landlines.
He said he met yesterday with Senator Darcy Boyce, the minister with responsibility for telecommunications, and advised him that the current regulation was “anachronistic and needs to be modernized and recognize the fact that now we are in a way more competitive environment”.
“We believe it is patently unfair, and in fairness . . . the minister of telecoms was in full agreement and indeed started the preliminary discussions with his permanent secretary about how we regularize that situation,” he reported.
With the Canadian telecommunications firm, Ozone, preparing to begin operations here, and with Flow’s market share in the television business already taking a hit, Sinclair said his company remained undaunted, and he saw the additional competition as an opportunity to respond even more strongly.
“Competition in and of itself is not a concern, it heightens your need to become more competitive. Clearly Ozone is going to have an impact on the market if they come in and are well run as we are expecting them to be, but it will make us more fit for purpose,” he said.
One area Flow is considering is number portability, which would allow Barbadians to keep their telephone numbers when they switch providers.
Sinclair said this service was already available in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, and the company was capable of implementing it here, although he said it presented no clear advantage.
“We don’t have an issue with number portability at all. We think the customer should have the choice of network that suits them and be able to switch networks and keep their number. We think it is the purview largely of a postpaid customer,” he said.
“You have a flurry of activity right after the implementation of it where people are switching networks but after a while it basically evens out. So you port out roughly the same number of people you port in at the end of the day,” he added.