The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Dig­i­cel this week con­firmed its strong sup­port for the an­nounce­ment by the Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion of St. Lu­cia (‘St. Lu­cia NTRC’) of a public con­sul­ta­tion process in re­la­tion to the merger be­tween Ca­ble and Wire­less Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (LIME) and FLOW/Colum­bus Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. (FLOW). The St. Lu­cia NTRC has in­vited mem­bers of the public/all in­ter­ested par­ties to make sub­mis­sions on the merger to the NTRC by Thurs­day 30th April, 2015.

Dig­i­cel has pre­vi­ously pub­licly called upon the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties in St. Lu­cia, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines and Gre­nada to be mind­ful of the con­di­tions im­posed by the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties in Bar­ba­dos and Trinidad and Tobago; par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to the di­vesti­ture of du­pli­cate fi­bre and re­lated in­fra­struc­ture as­sets cre­ated by the merger of LIME and FLOW’s net­works.

In its de­ci­sion pub­lished on 27th March, the Bar­ba­dos Fair Trad­ing Com­mis­sion (FTC) con­firmed the view that the merger would cre­ate “… anti-com­pet­i­tive ef­fects … in the Fixed-voice (land­line) tele­phony and Fixed Data (broad­band in­ter­net) ...” mar­kets. Ac­cord­ingly, the FTC im­posed 14 sep­a­rate sig­nif­i­cant con­di­tions on its merger ap­proval com­pelling LIME to promptly di­vest of sig­nif­i­cant over­lap fi­bre as­sets in Bar­ba­dos to a third party or par­ties to be ap­proved by the FTC. Th­ese com­pul­sory di­vest­ments in­clude fi­bre as­sets re­lat­ing to 27,000+ homes passed by the Karib Ca­ble net­work and an ad­di­tional 28,000+ homes out­side the Karib Ca­ble net­work but within the com­bined LIME/FLOW net­works. The FTC also made its ap­proval con­di­tional on other spe­cific con­di­tions in­clud­ing guar­an­teed con­sumer choice on ser­vice con­tracts, pro­vi­sion of pole and duct ac­cess to third party providers and re­tail price tar­iff­ing in the prod­uct mar­kets af­fected by the strongly anti-com­pet­i­tive ef­fects of the merger.

Dig­i­cel has sub­mit­ted to ECTEL and to the NTRCs in the af­fected coun­tries that the merger of LIME and FLOW is, at the very least, ev­ery bit as se­ri­ous a chal­lenge to com­pe­ti­tion in key tele­coms mar­kets in St. Lu­cia, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines and Gre­nada as it is in Bar­ba­dos and that the anti-com­pet­i­tive ef­fects of the merger are per­haps even more ob­vi­ous in the OECS. Ac­cord­ingly, Dig­i­cel sub­mits that th­ese OECS reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties must also very se­ri­ously con­sider the reme­dies of over­lap as­sets di­vesti­ture in the OECS in or­der to ad­dress th­ese ob­vi­ous anti-com­pet­i­tive ef­fects of the merger.

Dig­i­cel Group CEO, Colm Delves, com­mented, “We very much wel­come this in­ter­ven­tion by the St. Lu­cia NTRC and its com­mit­ment to a rig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory ex­am­i­na­tion of the pro­posed merger. This mat­ter needs to be very care­fully ex­am­ined and mon­i­tored by the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties in the OECS coun­tries.”

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