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.”