OBA’s Simons On Digicel/Ministry Dispute

June 11, 2012

[Written by Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of Telecommunications, Government Property and Estates] There has been a lot of bad blood let between the Minister of Telecommunications and Digicel Bermuda Limited, and what is becoming abundantly clear is that there are no winners. It does not serve Bermuda’s Telecommunications Industry’s interest.

The industry is spending millions of dollars in legal fees; and court costs because Digicel and the Minister is seeking an opinion to determine whether the letter which authorized the purchase of Transact by Digicel Limited, and the ultimate bundling of services to the public, was properly authorized.

It is my understanding that there is a real sense by the Minister, and within the Ministry, that the October 20, 2011 letter was ultra vires, in that it was not authorized in accordance with the telecommunications act and Government’s General Orders.

In addition, it has been brought to my attention that the letter was not authorized by the then Minister, Minister Walter Roban, and his Permanent Secretary.

In light of the above, the current Minister, and the past Minister must initiate a review and an investigation that will provide the public, and industry with and explanation as to how this so called ultra vires letter was allowed, and why the communications protocols prescribed by the Ministry, was not adhered to?

In addition, the bigger question is why would the Ministry consider granting the bundled service approval to Digicel, and disadvantage the other carriers, when the Electronic Transactions Act, and the Regulatory Authority Act was just around the bend?

On Digicel’s side, I am very concerned that their legal team were not able to sense that the letter granted by the Ministry, was not issued in accordance with Government’s General Orders, and the Telecommunications Act.

From where I sit, this whole debacle has been mishandled, and should have never ended up in Court. When this misunderstanding occurred, the then Minister of Telecommunications should have met with Digicel to immediately clear up any misunderstanding, and at the same time address the authorization error.

The Minister should have provided leadership, and clarity around the issues, as all of the other industry players were following the law, and acting within the remit of their licenses. I ask that the Minister to address these issues, as they form the true heart of the problem.

With regards to the Minister’s comments, in regards to the free issuance of spectrum to carriers as they enter market, and that Digicel Bermuda Limited failed to state that the spectrum that Digicel now holds was actually allocated to its predecessor companies, long before Digicel entered the Bermuda market.

What is the point? Why was this issue brought into the fray? This government has never effectively managed the optimal use of spectrum so that there are substantively more benefits, for the industry , and community at large.

Again, if this Government was smart, it should have been auditing Bermuda’s spectrum allocation on a regular basis. The audits would have ensured that the usage complies with the law, and that the usage is equitably spread across the ever changing telecommunications industry.

It would also ensure that Bermuda enjoys the real benefits. I am passionate about this because spectrum are granted at no cost to the industry service providers, and that most of the benefits and returns should remain in this country.

If Bermuda intends to continue as a major player in the digital, and telecommunications space, they must raise the bar when it comes to management and performance standards. They must meet international best practice standards in all spaces.

The Minister of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Telecommunications must set the standard for Bermuda’s telecommunications industry. They must be firm and fair. They should respect and work with all of the carriers as their partners, if they are to push Bermuda forward to become a world class telecommunications hub.

They must resolve this issue, and get this Digicel matter behind us.

- Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of Telecommunications, Government Property and Estates

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Comments (5)

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  1. Pastor Syl says:

    Well written, Cole. Even-handed and to the point. Would be nice to have this settled in a win-win fashion. Too much is adversarial and acrimonious.

  2. allcloggedup says:

    The easy solution is to allow all carriers to do anything they want. The governments only input should be price control and dispute settlement.

  3. Amazed says:

    I for one appreciate that Mr. Simons has kept his response factual and avoided the political inuendo. This is the level of debate we the public expect and deserve!

  4. M.P.Mountbatten JP says:

    You mean to tell me , that Minister Walter Rabain is at the heart of the matter again ?

  5. SHOWANAX says:

    No symapthy to Digicel from me. I just wish that the government would put some serious restrictions on this company to prevent them from taking more advantage of their customers. They keep finding ways to force the customer to pay more even though this week they reported a 1.1 Billion – YES BILLION not million dollar PROFIT. See link: http://bermudasun.bm/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=58924&SectionID=72&SubSectionID=894&S=1

    First it was no more overseas text messages without paying for a “plan” or $1.00 per text even though I have unlimited texting already.

    Then they announced that if you want them to continue sending you your bill – there will be a $2 charge for that. Amazing that nobody raised a fuss! Imagine if you walked into the grocery store or restaurant and they said that they were going to charge you 50 cents for the priveledge of printing for you (the cherished customer) a bill. There would be a boycott or riot for sure! Yet government said nothing about these bully tactics.

    Now they announced that the unlimited data plan that I have had for about a decade is going to be a thing of the past in 2014. Pretty sure all our data bills will be going up. I hope the Telecommunications department would make them provide the customer with a statement (for free) they could easily understand.

    By the way can someone fix or turn off the f’n alarm that goes off in your Church Street store everytime someone touches your blackberry devices that are on display. The staff don’t even budge when it goes off and all it does is embarras the customer that touched it while the piercihng alarm annoys and irritates your customers. Ive seen this happen both times that I been in the store in the last two weeks.