Reader’s Opinion: Simple solution

POSTED: 01/9/14 2:02 AM

Dear editor,

It is no secret that TelEm is a government owned company and government has on several occasions blocked other companies (Scarlet and UTS) from expanding to protect TelEm. The purpose of governments owning any type of company is usually to control cost and quality. Governments try to prevent any privately owned monopoly from driving up costs for any particular service that may be vital to a country’s operations. However, with St. Maarten it seems to be quite the opposite. While growing up I was a customer of both TelEm and UTS at different intervals. These companies provided mediocre services overall and have not improved much over the years. As a matter of fact, recently TelEm’s mobile phone service has been hampered by interference issues with other neighboring islands, on the French side they have low or no signal and data services.

Currently, TelEm offers a minimum of 2Mbps of internet download speed and 768Kbps upload speed for US49.95. The maximum offer is 10+Mbps of internet download speed and 768Kbps upload speed for US299.95. These services are offered through ADSL, a dedicated connection through your phone line. This information was taken from TelEm’s website.

The main reasons for the high cost in internet and phone service is due to TelEm being a government owned company and government protecting TelEm by preventing more telecommunication companies from entering the market on St. Maarten. As it stands, TelEm (government) has to invest in upgrading the infrastructure of TelEm every couple years, pay for repairs after natural disasters, pay employees and their benefits, and cover operational costs.

If TelEm was sold and the market was open there would be several ISP’s all competing to provide the best service at a low cost. The population would benefit from low cost reliable service from various ISPs and more job opportunities. While government would just have to make sure regulations are being followed (already being done by BTP SXM), collect taxes, and manage the running of telephone wires through a government owned company. Managing the running of telephone wires is mainly to prevent conflict of interest situations and this could help government make money if a low monthly fee is charged for using the lines. An added benefit to multiple ISPs would be redundancy, several fiber optic connections to St. Maarten means that if one gets damaged service won’t be gone for too long.

The result of this scenario can already be seen on the French side. Dauphin Telecom offers 20Mbps, more than what is offered by any ISP on the Dutch side, for 47 euros. This is a very simple solution and something I am sure others have thought about, I just felt the need to put it in writing and put it out there. With elections right around the corner, this is one way to provide jobs, lower operational costs for businesses (including government), lower cost of living, and improve critical services.
Ramzan Juman



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