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Digicel seeks meeting with Antigua PM over 'rape' comment

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — Telecommunications company, Digicel, is seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Gaston Browne after he accused the Irish-owned company as well as another provider of “raping” the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Digicel notes with consternation the statements made …in the press by the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda with regard to its commercial practices; statements which were both inaccurate and inappropriate,” Digicel said in a statement.

“With serious issues around the liberalisation of the fixed line market and number portability to name but two — this is just the latest in a series of moves being made to stifle competition in the telecoms market in Antigua and Barbuda for the benefit of the state-owned APUA, (Antigua Public Utilities Authority),” it said.

Browne, speaking on his privately owned radio station, said it takes an estimated US$20 million of investment to harness subsea cable for broadband services between islands of Antigua and Barbuda. He said with profits of at least eight million US dollars annually, Digicel and FLOW can get a payback within three years.

“What we found out in the case of Digicel and Flow, they are presently selling to APUA that broadband service at a mark-up and this is wholesale you know… a mark-up of about 600 per cent,” Browne said, adding “that is just rape, raping the people of Antigua and Barbuda".

Browne said that Flow and Digicel probably has a profit margin of about 1000 per cent on their retail prices, describing their model as exploitative and that his administration will not sit back and allow it to continue.

Browne said that the Government is investing EC$30 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) to acquire subsea cables for APUA.

But in its statement, Digicel said that “as champions of competition in the telecoms market across the Caribbean…Digicel will be seeking an urgent meeting with the prime minister to address these issues and chart a positive way forward for all parties and for the benefit of the people of Antigua and Barbuda”.

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