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Advocacy group promises vigilance on BTC/CWC deal

Consumer Voices Bahamas(CVB)supports the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)to Cable and Wireless(CWC), but the advocacy group promises that it will be vigilant in regards to the promises the telecommunications company are making.

In a release from the consumer advocacy group, CVB said it supports the deal as consumers can expect lower cell phone rates and cell phone prices, cheaper overseas rates for land lines, generally better service, more product applications once 3G technology is implemented, and other benefits.

“If we’re coming out as forerunners in terms of being in support of this, this is what we believe, and consumers are saying this is what they want, then by all means we need to continue to be that voice of advocacy that’s saying,’deliver to us what you’ve promised’,”Marlene Minus, President of CVB toldGuardian Businessyesterday.

On the subject of reduction of prices, Minus said that if the deal goes through, her group was expecting to see a near immediate reduction in cell phone rates upon completion of the deal, though the initial reduction may be minimal. She said CVB expected to see a sustained, gradual reduction of rates down to competitive levels over time.

The advocacy group also said that since businesses will have better rates, this should translate into cheaper prices for consumers in the country generally. The CVB’s release further said that cheaper rates and better service will also ultimately result in more room nights for hotels, as The Bahamas becomes more attractive as a tourist destination.

“Visitors will be able to keep in contact with their families using their smart phones while on vacation, and the business traveler will not miss a beat in the business world while on vacation,”the release read.

According to the release the implementation of 3G technology that is expected to come with the deal, and the benefits that come along with that, are also reasons to support the 51 percent acquisition of BTC. Those benefits are expected to include a faster network, fewer dropped calls, the ability to watch TV through broadband on a handset, and generally better service.

Minus said that some research to determine what a realistic time is for implementation of 3G technology still had to be conducted. However, she said a time frame for implementation, rather than a specified date, was in order, and CVB would advocate for expeditious implementation of the technology.

Other important benefits listed included the creation of job opportunities once the mobile market was liberalized, and the opportunity for Bahamians to purchase 25 percent of the shares of the entity. With CWC, communication in health care will also be improved, according to the release, possibly improving diagnosis and treatment of remote patients such as those on the Family Islands.

“I think it’s important to us moving forward that we continue to advocate for the consumer, and I don’t think our advocacy in this particular regard[will]end because a sale has been finalized,”Minus said.”In some cases our advocacy may in fact just begin.”

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