The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Dig­i­cel on Thurs­day said it wel­comed the con­fir­ma­tion by the East­ern Caribbean Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity (ECTEL) that the pro­posed merger be­tween Cable and Wire­less Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (CWC) and Colum­bus Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. (Colum­bus) is a mat­ter of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est for the re­gion de­serv­ing of rigourous reg­u­la­tory at­ten­tion and dili­gent re­view.

In a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, ECTEL an­nounced its ‘deep con­cern’ in relation to the pro­posed trans­ac­tion and the fact that the pro­posed merger could ‘po­ten­tially re­sult in a neg­a­tive im­pact on com­pe­ti­tion’ by ‘re­duc­ing choice for con­sumers of both ser­vices and ser­vice providers’. ECTEL fur­ther noted that ‘in­creased mo­nop­o­li­sa­tion can erode the gains made by lib­er­al­i­sa­tion’. ECTEL went on to state that the pro­posed merger raises sig­nif­i­cant is­sues in terms of po­ten­tial breaches of li­cences by both CWC and Colum­bus which must be in­ves­ti­gated thor­oughly.

In an­nounce­ments to the fi­nan­cial mar­kets, CWC and Colum­bus stated that reg­u­la­tory no­ti­fi­ca­tions and ap­provals would only be re­quired in the United States, Bar­ba­dos, Ja­maica and Trinidad. Dig­i­cel re­gards th­ese dis­mis­sive state­ments as con­sti­tut­ing an in­sult to the Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­i­ties and Gov­ern­ments of the ECTEL mem­ber states, and par­tic­u­larly those of Gre­nada, St. Lu­cia and St. Vincent and the Gre­nadines.

Dig­i­cel is heart­ened to note that ECTEL and the lo­cal Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sions (NTRCs) in each Mem­ber State have sig­nalled their de­ter­mi­na­tion to stand up and be counted in the face of such dis­mis­sive state­ments to the fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

Dig­i­cel con­firms its will­ing­ness and de­sire to en­gage with ECTEL and the NTRCs in each Mem­ber State such that a proper rigourous re­view of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions mar­kets and the pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion can be un­der­taken. Dig­i­cel be­lieves that it is only on foot of such a re­view that any worth­while as­sess­ment of the pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion on com­pe­ti­tion and con­sumer wel­fare can be con­ducted prop­erly and re­spon­si­bly.

Dig­i­cel Group CEO, Colm Delves, com­mented; “We very much wel­come this in­ter­ven­tion by ECTEL and its ex­pres­sion of support for a rig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory ex­am­i­na­tion of the pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion. Dig­i­cel was taken aback by the dis­mis­sive po­si­tion of CWC/ Colum­bus that the Gov­ern­ments of the ECTEL Mem­ber States and the es­tab­lished Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­i­ties in those coun­tries were es­sen­tially pow­er­less and had no right to over­see the pro­posed merger. The fact that CWC and Colum­bus are seek­ing to es­sen­tially put a gun to the heads of the Caribbean Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­i­ties and Gov­ern­ments to ap­prove their trans­ac­tion on their terms and ac­cord­ing to their own self­de­clared timeta­bles is also a cause for alarm.”

He con­tin­ues: “Dig­i­cel be­lieves that ECTEL and the NTRCs in each Mem­ber State have an ab­so­lute right, morally as well as legally, to sub­ject the pro­posed merger to a rig­or­ous ex­am­i­na­tion and ap­provals process in col­lab­o­ra­tion with their re­spec­tive Gov­ern­ments and rel­e­vant Min­is­te­rial bod­ies.”

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