Headlines: Adviser urges government to revisit telecomms deal; Ministers lobbied over airbridge price hike; On a quest for the brave
THE government will be urged to consider rewriting legislation – and revisiting its exclusivity agreement with Cable and Wireless – in the latest report on telecommunications in the Falkland Islands.
Consultant Dr Chris Doyle, hired by the government to produce the report, said there remained “some disquiet” over domestic telecomms, and a number of recommendations made in his 2005 report were still outstanding.
“The key one,” he said, “is the need to rewrite the legislation in full – from new.
“And that covers just about everything, including the exclusivity granted to Cable and Wireless.”
Existing law, drawn up in 2007 as part of a financial settlement with C&W to underwrite the new Camp network, precludes competition being allowed prior to 2019, when the exclusive licence expires.
But Dr Doyle said there might be room for competition – if the government was prepared to renegotiate.
“There may be reasons for the government to consider a number of ways of putting competitive pressure on C&W”, he said. “For example, by issuing a number of licences which would allow people to erect satellite dishes.”
The crucial factor, Dr Doyle said, was whether or not the government had the will to address those key issues. “The law could change, and the agreement would need to be renegotiated,” he said.
“But has the government got the will to come back to Cable and Wireless and say there remain some serious concerns?”
Dr Doyle’s report will also address the billing structure.
“With internet use in particular some people have expressed serious doubts about the accuracy of their billing,” he said.
“There doesn’t appear to be any independent audit of the billing, which does concern me.
“But are we willing to put up with errors – or pay a few thousand pounds a year for some auditing process which will, of course, have to be passed on to the consumer?
“I am now inquiring as to what those costs would be.”
Dr Doyle said he believed the current service provided by C&W was “reasonably good”, considering the technical and economic restraints of supplying a telecomms system for a small market.
“Therein lie many of the problems – the scale. Many of the functions of the system are built for larger markets. It is far from perfect, but by and large it is not too bad.”
He said the report would reach the Attorney General this weekend.
A PLAN by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to impose a “substantial” price rise on fares on the airbridge has been condemned by Councillor Mike Summers.
Speaking to Penguin News from London, Cllr Summers said he had found the proposal by the MoD “highly unacceptable, unfair and unreasonable.”
He said: “It won’t achieve what they want it to achieve. A price increase would just reduce usage.”
Councillors were told of the proposed price increase on June 5, which the MoD intended to implement on July 1.
So concerned was Cllr Summers that he yesterday met with both the Minister for the Armed Forces and the Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss the issue.
He said both men had been sympathetic to the Falklands’ arguments against a large price increase and that a “programme of discussion” had been agreed to take place over the next three months. He said: “It will inevitably lead to some changes to the use of the airbridge, but not a price increase to the degree the MoD proposed.”
When asked if he felt the MoD’s move to hike the airfares was a way to drive civilians away from the airbridge and make Falkland Islanders reliant on direct links with South America, Cllr Summers said he had been assured by the Armed Forces Minister that this was not the case. He said: “It is purely a cost issue.”
NORMALLY rational thinking people will be discarding their common sense and their clothes tomorrow to take part in the annual midwinter swim. All you need to do to enter the swim is to be at Surf Bay by 11am to register and the swim will start at 11.30am. The event is raising money for the Stanley Sea Cadets and Seamen’s Mission.