Meyers refuses to grant UTS landing permit for fiber cable

POSTED: 02/9/12 1:33 PM

Carty: “It’s not wise to put all your cables in one hole”

St. Maarten / By Donellis Browne – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications Franklin Meyers has said he will not grant a landing permit to United Telecommunications Services (UTS) for a fiber optic cable that will connect St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Kitts. UTS’ Chief Executive Officer Glen Carty has said things aren’t even so far yet that they will request a permit Telem Group of Companies’ Chief Financial Officer Helma Etnel has welcomed the support.

“There seems to be some undercurrents trying to force the ministry to sign on with UTS and I would like to let the general public and I would like to let everyone know that in no uncertain terms will I sign any agreement for a landing permit for UTS on St. Maarten that is the competitor to the local provider. I do not believe those opportunities would be afforded to us in any other country in the Caribbean and I do not see why St. Maarten always has to the exception to the rule,” Meyers asserted at Wednesday’s Council of Ministers press briefing.

Later he’d add, “If we do not come to terms with an agreement for a landing site in the Smitcoms landing hole I will basically reiterate what I have said before.”

The minister’s statement comes even before the Dutch government makes its announcement on which company has won the bid to host the landing site.

“We were approached by a company to give a bid. I assume Telem was approached too. The Netherlands now has to decide. The eventual winner will have to request a landing permit. We’re simply following the procedures and if we win and the minister turns down our request, we will ask the minister to explain the decision in writing,” Carty said.

“TelEm Group welcomes the support of Minister Meyers and the Government of St. Maarten on this matter and like Minister Meyers we are also determined, as the incumbent telecommunication provider for St. Maarten, to secure the landing rights for the Dutch cable on country St. Maarten. TelEm Group participated in the bidding process along with other companies making a case to utilize its beach manhole as a landing partner for the BES fibre cable and especially because of the co-location facilities that can be offered via sister company, Smitcoms,” Etnel said.

The company has already received requests for additional buy valium us information on its bid, but they are still waiting for a final decision.

Reasoning

Meyers’ specific reasoning for not wanting to sign a landing permit for UTS is that the Dutch government has given a grant for the new cable, while Smitcoms – which is part of the Telem Group – has to pay $18 million for its cable – SMPR-1 and the competitor will only have $2.4 million in overhead. That investment requires Telem Group to charge higher prices for its services, while the operators of the new cable will be able to charge lower prices.

“St. Maarten already has a fiber cable. We have connectivity to San Juan. We have a fiber cable. We’re not jockeying for a fiber cable. We understand the benefits of having an additional fiber pulled in, however we will not be put in a position that we are depending on a fiber cable. The government of St. Maarten some years ago already took care of that. We saw the value of having such project a done. That project was completed and that cable is now operational. I don’t believe it is now expected for government or the ministry to conduct and allow our competitor,” Meyers said.

Later he’d add, “You can see where the prices can be slashed, which will put the local telecom provider in a position where it just won’t be able to compete and I don’t feel it is, and I don’t want to use the word, fair, but I don’t feel we should put the company in a position where it just cannot compete to service its own payments.”

When that was put to Carty he said, “It’s not wise to put all your cables in one hole.

Shareholder Representative

UTS Shareholder Representative from St. Maarten Roland Duncan agrees with Meyers that the company should not be given a landing permit.

“I agree with the minister 100 percent because his decision protects our economy and our company. In fact we are busy right now to have Curacao buy out our 12.5 percent share of UTS. If the cable is to be landed here let them (the project team) cut a deal with Smitcoms,” Duncan said.

Later he’d add, “If we allow it to be landed at UTS we will destroy our own company and the profits will benefit another country. UTS has made no major investments in St. Maarten and this is about UTS improving its bottom line.”

 

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