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Speak up and out about proposed telecommunications merger

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Tue Feb 24, 2015

As we went to press yesterday evening, discussions were ongoing at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown pertaining to the proposed merger of telecommunications companies Cable and Wireless (LIME) and Columbus Communications (FLOW) and the perceived implications for the consumer.{{more}}

The Ministry of Telecommunications and the other organizers should be commended for hosting forum and making it accessible to a wide audience of Vincentians through radio, television or by live streaming. Rarely have we been consulted in this manner or given the ears of such high level players on issues that have a significant impact on our pockets and our quality of life.

Hopefully the gathering yesterday was not just to give us, the consumers, a false sense that we have some influence on whether the merger goes forward. We hope that the concerns raised will be taken on board and reflected in Government’s decision on the way forward.

Vincentians have not had positive experiences with monopolies, and ironically, our bad experiences have come at the hands at the two companies who are proposing to get together. Their customer service, particularly that of Flow, is poor; it is near impossible to reach supervisors/managers of these companies by telephone, and when messages are left they do not respond; very rarely do they compensate customers when there are service outages, and in the case of Flow, their cable television offering (channel line-up) is a step down from what was offered by their predecessor, but at an increased cost.

We also have first-hand experience of how we customers stand to benefit when we have a choice. Once Digicel came on the scene and provided Lime with competition, we saw mobile telephone rates plummet; similarly, now that Flow is on the scene, Lime is offering us increased broadband speed for much less cost.

In all of this, the ability to have a choice is key. If the merger is allowed to go forward, how easy will it be for new players to enter the market and compete with the new entity? What safeguards will the Government put in place to protect us from price gouging? Based on our experiences, why should we expect that things will get better if Flow and Lime are allowed to merge?

It is our understanding that the consultations will continue for a few more weeks. We urge our citizens and residents to take the opportunity, while it exists, to tell the Government what we think will be in in the best interest of the Vincentian people.

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