Moratorium on telecom licenses

POSTED: 08/2/13 4:28 PM

Corporate Innovations obtained concession, remains inactive

St. Maarten – The government established a moratorium on telecommunication licenses, but the decree regulating the freeze should have been published, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Wednesday. Apparently, this did not happen so far.

The moratorium may affect attempts by local entrepreneur Elwaldo Arrindell to enter the telecom market.

Arrindell announced in the beginning of July that he wants to begin offering mobile phone service by the end of this year. Former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and telecommunication Romeo Pantophlet signed off on a license for Arrindell in August of last year, but the government would still have to grant him a concession before he is able to start operations. Arrindell said that he would employ between 35 and 50 people.

There is however already a third party in the market: Corporate Innovations. This company has been fighting for a telecom-concession since 2007, but two years ago it finally got what it wanted. That Corporate Innovations has not started to use its concession may have to do with the multi-million investment it needs to make and with possible bureaucratic hurdles.

Following a decision by the island council of St. Maarten Maurice Adriaens, Minister of Transport and Telecommunication in the government of the Netherlands Antilles turned down Corporate Innovations’ request for a telecom concession on May 4, 2007.

On June 7, Corporate Innovations filed an objection. On November 14, the minister rejected the objection. One month later, the company appealed this decision, and on June 5, 2008, the Joint Court of Justice dealt with the case.

Mrs. Th. Aardenburg and R. Rijnberg, acting for Minister Maurice Adriaens, pointed during this hearing to an advice to and a decision by the Council of Ministers to keep a moratorium on mobile telecommunication concessions in place, and to documents that supported the decision.

However, the minister declined to submit these documents to court. On June 17, the minister asked the court not to reveal part of their contents to Corporate Innovations. The court considered this not justified and invited the minister to submit all these documents. This met with another refusal on September 8, 2008.

On March 6, both parties were back in court to handle the dispute.

Corporate Innovations demanded the concession, because it had obtained a permit to establish the company from the island territory. The court rejected this argument, saying that telecommunication is an exclusive authority of the national government.

In 2011, Corporate Innovation was back in court, this time with Telecom Minister Franklin Meyers of the autonomous country St. Maarten as opponent. The company had filed an objection against the 2007 decision, but never received a reaction. In December 2010, the administrative court ordered the government to take a decision but again, it did nothing. Corporate Innovations went back to court and finally, in September 2011, the court ordered telecom minister Franklin Meyers to take a decision within eight weeks.

Now Corporate Innovations, that has in the past also used the trade name Axcess Caribbean, has a concession, but so far, no business activities yet.

The managing director of Corporate Innovations is Brenda Wathey who is about to get married to former telecommunication minister Franklin Meyers.

Attempts to reach Ms. Wathey yesterday for a comment on her plans for the company were unsuccessful.

Last year the Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) released for the first time data about the telecommunication market in St. Maarten. The data show that at the end of 2011 there were 67,124 mobile subscribers, equivalent to a population penetration of 164.3 percent. Broadband subscribers numbered 10,966, wireline customers just 6,862.

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