Columbus

Cable & Wireless Acquisition Ignites Monopoly Fears in the Caribbean

US$3B Deal to Acquire Columbus Raises Concerns, Highlights Vulnerabilities in Caribbean Telecom Sector

by Bevil Wooding

Bevil Wooding - Profile PhotoWhen Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) announced an agreement to acquire Columbus International, news of the deal sparked widespread concerns about the impact of reduced competition on consumer pricing, infrastructure investment and wider economic development in the Caribbean.

If approved, the deal will make CWC the Caribbean’s largest wholesale and retail broadband service provider. At the same time, it will return several Caribbean territories into monopoly or near-monopoly markets for telephony, cable TV and broadband services.

Game Changer

“This is a game changer for Cable & Wireless—it puts us very much back on the map,” CWC chief executive officer Phil Bentley said on an investors’ conference call to discuss the acquisition. He referred to the deal as “a great opportunity” for CWC to “build scale and become the dominant player” in bundled cable TV, Internet and phone services in the region.

The acquisition is a major win from the perspective of the once dominant, 143-year-old telecommunications giant. The company previously enjoyed monopoly protection across much of the English-speaking Caribbean. Since de-monopolization began in the late nineties, however, CWC’s slowness to adapt has contributed to its market position being steadily eroded by new, nimble players such as Columbus and Digicel.

In 2013, then UK-based Cable & Wireless Communications, having already separated from the purely UK-focused Cable & Wireless Worldwide in 2010, moved its operations and leadership team to Miami, Florida. The firm now serves 2 million customers in thirteen Caribbean countries with fixed telephony, broadband, cable TV, and mobile services. Publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, CWC now makes US$1.12 billion in revenue each year from the Caribbean, or about US$48 per customer per month. It has spent the better part of the past decade shedding costs, restructuring and centralizing decision-making in an attempt to escape stagnation. With the Columbus acquisition, CWC is positioning itself to regain market-dominance.

The acquisition is still dependent on shareholder consent and also requires regulatory approval in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados. If it goes through, CWC will have immediate access to a more modern, more extensive network infrastructure and greater market reach through ownership of Columbus’ three operating divisions—its lucrative subsea wholesale network, operated by Columbus Networks; its business solutions division, trading under the brand Columbus Business Solutions; and its consumer-brand Flow, which currently services households in the Caribbean with cable TV, broadband and landline voice services.

Columbus, registered in Barbados yet managed from Ft Lauderdale, Florida, has grown over the past ten years to serve forty-two countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Canadian billionaire John Risley, American billionaire John Malone, and founder and CEO Brendan Paddick together hold 84.8 percent of the privately owned company. The three would own 36 percent of the new CWC, worth nearly US$800 million.

For the year ended 2013, Columbus had revenues of US$505 million and net profits of US$104 million from a customer base of just over seven hundred thousand, representing about half of all households in the Caribbean territories in which it operates, and an average revenue per customer of about US$60 per month. It also disrupted markets with acquisitions, technology innovations and aggressive market entry tactics. Its Internet offerings are at prices as much as eighty percent lower than comparable services from CWC, its largest competitor in the region. However, its growth has not been without challenges. After doubling its market footprint last year with the acquisition of Karib Cable, doing business in four additional eastern Caribbean countries, the company struggled with network build-outs and launch delays, exposing its technical and human capacity limitations.

Signs of a potential union were first seen last May when the two companies announced a joint venture to share an undersea cable network connecting forty-two countries and spanning more than 42,000 kilometers. The agreement created an entity with control of almost ninety percent of the region’s subsea cable infrastructure and raised the first red flag to regulators across the region.

As with that joint venture, both companies are now doing their best to make the case that this full-blown acquisition is good for the market and good for consumers. Brendan Paddick, Columbus’ CEO, claimed that “combining our businesses makes both companies stronger, faster and smarter in competing with larger competitors.”

Here’s the catch: there won’t be two companies after the acquisition, and there won’t be any larger competitiors. Combining the businesses will make CWC the largest wholesale broadband provider, and a dominant or outright monopoly “quad-play” provider, commanding the markets for the four principle communications services—mobile, broadband, cable TV and landline—in the Caribbean.

News of the proposed acquisition has not been well received by Columbus’ customers. Columbus’ Flow-branded social-media sites have been overrun with negative sentiments from customers, who have also started a movement on ipetition.com, with the headline “Vote NO to the Cable & Wireless/LIME acquisition of Columbus Communication/FLOW.” Unfortunately, only stockholders have a vote; the Caribbean public has no direct say in the transaction.

Changing Landscape

What of Digicel, the Caribbean’s largest mobile provider, and the only other significant

telecom player in the region? In a release, they said: “This proposed transaction raises a considerable number of issues for telecommunications regulation and competition generally in the region. The issues that will need to be addressed include such matters as fairness in spectrum allocations, local loop unbundling, price bundling generally as well as a myriad of other likely issues … and the likely resultant impact on the telecoms market in the region.”

Digicel’s concerns are not surprising given the company’s dependence on wholesale broadband and network services from Columbus and CWC. Probably sensing that consolidation was in the cards, Digicel has made several maneuvers over the past year to safeguard its position. It recently acquired regional sports broadcaster SportsMax and bought cable TV companies in six markets in as many months. Digicel has also made significant investments in terrestrial fibre build-outs in Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In its latest venture, it entered the subsea bandwidth arena by purchasing Global Caribbean Fibre, giving it submarine fibre assets in the eastern Caribbean.

If Digicel gets its acquisition act in order, it might be able to extend its strength in the mobile space to the quad-play market, presenting additional challenges to regulators. But it would take years and hundreds of millions more dollars in investments before Digicel can match the new CWC in terms of capacity or reach—so it offers little challenge at present to the proposed monopoly.

Race for Market Domination

The limited capacity of its largest commercial competitor to respond is one of the reasons why, from a business standpoint, the Columbus acquisition makes strategic sense for CWC. It is also why governments, regulators and consumers should be very concerned. With the proposed acquisition in hand, CWC can consolidate its service footprint in the region, profiting handsomely in the process. According to filings with the London Stock Exchange, CWC estimates that the combined entity would be able to achieve “recurring annualized pre-tax cost synergies of about $85 million.”

Analysts at Jefferies, a global investment firm, say the acquisition “eliminates the competitive risk that would have remained had Columbus remained as a (strong) rival.” What the Jefferies analysis understates is that the sheer reach and scale of combined CWC and Columbus broadband, landline, mobile and cable operation creates an effective monopoly in the form of a market-dominant competitor that will overshadow the efforts of smaller competitors.

Unanswered Questions

This deal between CWC and Columbus may have been transacted in the UK and US, but the brunt of its impact will be felt by Caribbean stakeholders. The benefit to CWC and financial rewards to a handful of Canadian and American investors, cannot distract from the fact that the acquisition directly threatens all aspects of economic development within the region, raising many concerns:

Gaps in Regulatory Structure

The deal exposes in the most extreme manner the limitations of the present situation of optional, ad hoc cooperation among national and sub-regional regulatory authorities. The acquisition agreement adds fuel to a growing debate on whether national regulatory bodies can stand up to the might and reach of firms trading at a multinational level. It also brings fears of a return to the days of high prices, poor service and general arrogance that defined CWC in the heyday of its monopoly in the region.

The potential for monopoly behavior is compounded by the absence of competition regulation in several countries and lack of any effective regional body to regulate competition. Barbados and Jamaica both have working competition legislation and competition agencies. Trinidad and Tobago’s recently established competition body has no authority over telecommunications services, but its telecom regulator does have the authority to amend service provider concessions in the event of an acquisition or change of ownership. Regulators and governments in the eastern Caribbean territories, where there is not competition legislation, are searching for other options to safeguard consumers and markets.

Nevertheless, none of these countries, individually, have the leverage to impact a CWC near-monopoly by way of regulation. Given than these markets are simply too small to wield individual influence, will it be possible for them to pool their resources and collective resolve?

Challenges to Innovation

The acquisition would bring the more than three thousand Columbus employees into the CWC fold, almost doubling CWC’s current staff. CWC may be hoping for the Columbus culture to energize its operations, but it is difficult to imagine that the latter’s enterprising culture and appetite for fast-paced innovation will rub off on CWC’s time-honed bureaucratic, top-down approach.

If CWC is unable to inspire or retain key Columbus staff, the integration of Columbus into their fold could leave the company a larger, slower and more debt-laden version of its current self. This would stymie growth and curtail innovation, not merely of the corporation but of Caribbean economies. This could reverse the gains of the de-monopolization process of the past fifteen years.

Service Disruptions and Layoffs

CWC in its filings indicated that it expects to achieve cost savings of approximately US$85 million, of which more than two-thirds will come from “rationalization of overlapping headcount in back office, sales and marketing and customer service roles, renegotiation of vendor rates, reduction of real estate costs and harmonization of IT systems.” If these “savings” are realized through staff layoffs, service cuts, elimination of market choice, fewer business continuity options and cancelled future development projects, how much greater is the cost to the economy as a whole?

The merger of the employee groups will also have to include integration of CWC’s highly unionized environment with Columbus’ largely nonunionized employees, restructuring of staff and possibly harmonization of employment terms. This process can result in labor-related actions, employee flight and other disruptions to core business. It remains to be seen how many staff and projects of either company will survive the acquisition.

Obstacles to Future Infrastructure Investment

Prior to the acquisition announcement, CWC had promised a US$1 billion “capital investment led strategy” while Columbus had spent nearly US$500 million on actual network build in the prior three years. It is uncertain whether the region will continue to benefit from the same level of infrastructure investment and all of its follow-on economic benefits or see it lost as the companies consolidate their portfolios.

Safeguarding Consumer Interests

Given the strategic importance of telecommunications and Internet connectivity to the Caribbean’s economic and social development, concerns created by the proposed acquisition—covering infrastructure development, consumer prices, employment, service quality, and consumer choice—need to be addressed quickly and comprehensively.

The companies’ shareholders and owners have no particular reason to evaluate these concerns from the perspective of the Caribbean stakeholders. The responsibility falls to Caribbean governments, regulators, businesses, and consumers to make their voices heard.

The disparate expressions of disappointment, disquiet, fear and concern being raised across the region must be focused into strong statements of objection to Cable & Wireless. This will underscore the seriousness of the situation and is the first step toward more robust oversight of the critical Caribbean telecommunication sector. It will also be a strong signal to Caribbean regulators that they must act in concert to meet the challenge of multinational monopolization and limit the damage it will otherwise impose upon regional economies.

Bevil Wooding is an Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House (www.pch.net) an international non-profit organization responsible for providing operational support and security to critical Internet infrastructure. Follow on Twitter: @bevilwooding

Tech Matters: Defending An Open Caribbean Internet

Why Blocking VoIP Services is Bad for Consumers and Bad for the Region
By Bevil Wooding
http“…we are empowering individuals and businesses to get the best out of the internet when and how they want.” – Mark Linehan, CEO of Digicel Jamaica
In general, it is always troubling when private firms place their profit-driven interests above larger societal good. When such interests, impact open access to the Internet, and all of its services, the ramifications can undermine economies and disempower whole sectors of society.
The Internet has woven itself into every aspect of modern life. The laws and principles governing it shape economic and political decisions around the world and affect every industry, every business, and billions of lives. This is why the move by two major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the Caribbean to block or throttle services from popular Internet applications such as Skype and Viber, do not augur well for consumer choice, entrepreneurial enterprise, or market growth.
This should be a point of grave concern to governments, regulators, businesses and consumers across the region. The action of these ISPs sets a dangerous precedent and could have a deleterious impact on efforts to leverage ICTs for both economic and social development across the region.
Optimizing Network Performance or Profit Margins?
The ISPs argue that they are preventing unauthorized use of their networks. According to Digicel, it has blocked a number of VoIP applications including Viber, Tango and Nimbuzz because “the apps were not paying Digicel for routing their traffic over its networks.”
Digicel Haiti’s CEO Maarten Boute said, “It is time for us to act to protect our business, our customers and the integrity of our service and ensure that the Haitian government gets the money it is owed.” This argument has also been used in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
As noble as they would like the public to believe their intentions are, it seems what they are really protecting is their own interests and their own profit margins.
Discriminating against certain types of data traffic that run across their networks does not protect customer interests, and it certainly does not safeguard taxation revenues to governments. They are in fact discriminating against certain type of data traffic that challenges their business model. And instead of innovating and evolving, their response is to stifle competition, and frighten the region’s governments with threats of diminished revenues.
ISPs Are Gateways NOT Gatekeepers
Too much progress has been made in the telecom and ICT sector in the Caribbean to allow avaricious service providers to drag the region into a digital dark age.
Historically, ISPs have acted as gateways to the Internet and the many applications, services and content that live on the computer servers connected to it. But their role was never intended to be as gatekeepers, determining which data bits and web services should load better or worse.
This important distinction is what has allowed the Internet to evolve into a platform for innovation and empowerment now used by over a billion people today. It is also the reason why the Internet economy has experienced a growth-rate that is orders of magnitude greater than the telecom industry.
A 2013 Kauffman Foundation report showed that in the previous three decades, the high-tech sector was 23 percent more likely, and the information technology sector 48 percent more likely, to give birth to new businesses than the private sector overall. Mobile-based markets will only expand, too; the Boston Consulting Group projects that mobile devices will account for four out of five broadband connections by 2016.
All this innovation has taken place without the permission of ISPs. It would be irresponsible and foolhardy to allow the model to be distorted in the Caribbean.
Innovation Without Permission
Local telecom duopolies already define most markets in the Caribbean, giving customers little choice for high-speed fixed line or mobile broadband access. Further, the region has the inglorious distinction of having some of the highest international call termination rates in the world, as well as artificially high intra-regional roaming charges.
Why are roaming costs and international call rates so expensive? And who benefits the most from this? There are reasons why Internet-based voice services like Skype, Viber, Vonage and Magic-Jack so popular. These services provide consumers and business across the region with an affordable option for communicating with friends, family and business partners. It is important to note that they are affordable options, not free options.
Consumers still have to pay for the Internet access needed to access these services. This is where the ISP argument for treating VoIP traffic as special fall apart. Consumers pay for the web-based services when they pay for their Internet access. In any healthy, competitive marketplace, service providers are expected to take these revenues from consumers to continue making improvements to their network to handle consumer demands.
Right Words Need Right Actions
Mark Linehan, CEO of Digicel Jamaica seem to have understood this basic business reality when he said at the launch of Digicel’s mobile 4G service in Jamaica, “…we are empowering individuals and businesses to get the best out of the internet when and how they want.”
LIME’s Corporate Communications Manager, Shand Merchant at the launch of the company’s mobile broadband service in Antigua and Barbuda, also seemed clear on the providers role “Our new 4G network means that they can now realise the full potential of their handsets. There is a huge demand for mobile data and this upgrade will not only help us to improve the customer’s experience, but to also better meet that demand as more customers move to smartphones, tablets and other data-capable devices.”
So why the apparent about-turn, after making such unambiguous statement of the value and role of mobile broadband service as an enabler and empowering force for consumers across the region?
The position of Lime and Digicel can be considered a direct challenge against the efforts of regional governments and regulators to provide consumers with choice and foster knowledge based economies. The actions of the regional ISPs will now certainly test the resolve and capacity of local regulators to defend consumer choice, and uphold the core tenants of net neutrality across the region.
Enabling Caribbean Innovation
Data, not minutes, is the currency for the modern telecom provider. This is why telecom providers have to evolve to meet the realities of business in the Internet age. Increasingly users want just an Internet connection from the carrier.
Talmon Marco, CEO and founder of Viber Media in response to his company’s popular application being blocked, said of Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien: “Mr. O’Brien is on the wrong side of history. His arguments are a decade old. Most carriers around the world have come to realise that users want and expect the advanced messaging, voice and video services offered by Viber and its competitors.
Thankfully, other major providers in the Caribbean remain committed to an open and neutral open Internet. Columbus Communications, the largest provider of wholesale broadband in the region, issued its own statement:
“…From what we understand, no other major international provider engages in the practice of blocking legitimate VOIP and similar apps. Converged technology and access to content via multi-platforms (audio, video and data content via multiple devices, phones, tablets, televisions) is now the norm.
This practice can be considered punitive to customers, restricting their choices and certainly putting them at a disadvantage compared to international counterparts. Customers’ expectation today is that they can access data and voice ‘on the go’, at their convenience, on their device of choice.
Columbus maintains its position that broadband enables all current and future innovations. This is the strength of our infrastructure and what differentiates our service from what is offered by our competitors. Our responsibility as an ISP is to advance the adoption of technology and broadband in all of its avenues; in the long-term the industry will only flourish.”
The Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) says its policy on VoIP use via its mobile network dictates that customers be provided with a conduit to voice and data services.
“VoIP essentially is data on the mobile network, much like e-mail, YouTube, social media or downloading apps and games. Each local provider must therefore decide, based on what it knows of the capabilities of its network, how to treat with customers using VoIP,” TSTT stated.
Safeguarding Caribbean Development
The openness of the Internet has been a catalyst for many of the social and economic advances experiences in the Caribbean over the past decade. Safeguarding the advance must be a national and regional priority.
Governments and regulators across the region must take swift and decisive action to protect consumer choice, and the neutrality and openness of the Internet across the Caribbean. Telecom providers have already demonstrated their capacity to take advantage of under-resourced, and in some cases under-informed national regulators.
Obviously, updating legislation and internet governance policy will take time. However, there is a definite role for regional bodies like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union to define a regional response, and a policy framework to protect national interests. Consumers and businesses, also need to make their position known. Too much is at stake for anyone to remain ignorant of the issues, or worse, silent in response

Bevil Wooding - Profile PhotoBevil Wooding is the Chief Knowledge Officer of Congress WBN (www.congresswbn.org), a values-based, international charity and the Executive Director of BrightPath Foundation, a technology education non-profit organization. Reach him on Twitter @bevilwooding or on facebook.com/bevilwooding or contact via email at technologymatters@brightpathfoundation.org.

Side Bar – Defending Caribbean Net Neutrality
Net neutrality holds that ISPs shouldn’t preferential treatment to some web services over others or charge some companies arbitrary or punitive fees to reach their customers. Net neutrality is not some pie in the proverbial sky concern. It core principles have been a major contributor to the unqualified success of the global Internet economy.
The Internet was conceived as a public commons, where providers merely connect everyone, rather than regulating who spoke with whom. Large and small companies can link up computer servers, mobile phones, tablets and increasingly wearable devices. All of this integration and innovation has relied on one critical feature of the global Internet: no one needs permission from anyone to do anything.
It would be a travesty if narrow interests are allowed to define the future of the Internet in Caribbean. The next generation of entrepreneurs, app developers, digital artists, authors, indeed the future of the region’s development, are based on the deliberate steps we take to protect an open Internet today.

Bright Path to Digital Careers at TechLink Barbados

BrightPath facilitator Juma Bannister, left, walks TechLink Barbados participants through the paces in a hands-on session in camera usage at Cave Hill School of Business, June 21. Photo courtesy The Brightpath Foundation.
BrightPath facilitator Juma Bannister, left, walks TechLink Barbados participants through the paces in a hands-on session in camera usage at Cave Hill School of Business, June 21. Photo courtesy The Brightpath Foundation.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – More than thirty young Barbadians learned basic skills for developing successful mobile apps and producing high-quality digital photography at a special workshop facilitated by the BrightPath Foundation, in collaboration with Columbus Communications.

A mix of small business owners and entrepreneurs assembled at the Cave Hill School of Business for BrightPath’s TechLink, a regional technology education program offering training in digital content creation and business development.

Bevil Wooding, executive director of BrightPath Foundation, described TechLink as “practical training in technology related skills to communities across the region.”

“Making the shift from digital consumers to digital producers is important for creating the jobs and businesses of the future. How successfully we build the digital Caribbean of tomorrow depends on how well we build our technical capacity today,” Wooding said.

Facilitators Stephen Lee, Mark Headley and Juma Bannister led the sessions of the one-day workshop.

“What makes TechLink unique is that it really gets participants to see the impact they can have as content creators in whatever medium they choose,” Lee said.

Lee, CEO of ArkiTechs Inc, an IT services company, is a Jamaica-born BrightPath volunteer. He led participants through the fundamentals of mobile app development.

His eager young students were visibly and audibly enthused by the opportunity to get hands-on training.

In a nearby room, a group of photography enthusiasts were schooled by another expert volunteer facilitator. Juma Bannister, a Trinidad-based professional photographer and head of Relate Studios, covered the basics of digital photography and followed up by overseeing an afternoon of practical exercises around the scenic campus venue.

“Photography has always been a wonderful way to tell stories in pictures. Now, with the internet, we can also easily share those picture stories of our region with the world,” Bannister said.

“Initiatives like BrightPath’s TechLink benefit individuals and communities by enabling us to solve our own problems and create our own opportunities. It creates independence, inspiring us to take risks, and encourages global involvement,” said Shelly Ann Hee Chung, Columbus Communications vice president of sales and marketing for the Eastern Caribbean.

Commenting on the collaboration with BrightPath Lee said, “Columbus and BrightPath Foundation are equally committed to developing technology capacity in the Caribbean. Columbus’ support for BrightPath’s pioneering TechLink initiative brings this dream to life.”

The TechLink initiative, launched in Grenada last November, is being rolled out across the Caribbean. The Barbados workshops were held on June 21st. TechLink’s next stop is scheduled to take place on July 12 in St. Lucia.

For more information, visit www.brightpathfoundation.org.

Community Centres to become Focal Points for eCommerce through Flow Grenada and BrightPath Initiative

Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada addresses the audience on plans to start training programmes across the island at the Community Access Points, which are receiving free broadband internet service courtesy of Flow.
Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada addresses the audience on plans to start training programmes across the island at the Community Access Points, which are receiving free broadband internet service courtesy of Flow.

MORNE ROUGE, Grenada – Flow Grenada and their strategic partner BrightPath Foundation are taking another step to empower and enable Grenadians to become business owners and content creators.

During the Tuesday, October 1, 2013 press conference to announce the availability of up to 100Mbps internet speed, Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Columbus Communications Grenada Ltd operating as FLOW, said they will be working with BrightPath to establish training programmes at the ten community access points (CAPs) around the island which receive free broadband from the company.

Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of BrightPath a non-profit which focuses on technology-based learning, said Grenada has been the Caribbean’s pioneer in policies to enable the use of technology and has led with the deployment of the region’s first Internet Exchange Point (IXP). In 2012, BrightPath worked with a group of young Grenadians to teach them to develop mobile applications. Wooding said five apps produced in the workshop are now available for download.

“We must deliberately prepare the next generation from being content consumers to content producers,” Wooding charged. “Technology is the servant of our development.”

With this in mind, Wooding said new training programmes will be launched through the CAPs located in the community centres and with the support of community groups, to teach classes targeted at youth, senior citizens, parents, educators and At Risk Youth.

The intention he said is to make these CAPs the focal points for accessing new markets through eCommerce platforms offering indigenous Grenadian products and content. “These access points can fuel the national development. The building blocks are there and the youth are waiting to be unleashed,” declared Wooding.

Counsellor at the Boca Secondary School Sturling Campbell welcomes the initiatives which he said will be to the benefit of both teachers and students. Campbell revealed that his school was preparing to launch a new web-based programme which will allow parents to see their children’s reports, homework assignments and communicate with the teachers online. As more of the curriculum goes online, he added, students will need to be able to complete their assignments virtually and the increased broadband as well as the CAPS will support these new ways of learning and educating the population.

Rhea Yaw Ching, Corporate Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Columbus, said the objective behind the provision of free broadband to schools and community centres and the training programmes is to empower communities to be problem solvers and make changes that have a lasting and transformative impact on the society.

Grenada, she said, is to be the test country for new initiatives between Columbus and its strategic partners in the areas of technology deployment, content creation and eLearning.

For more than a year now, ten of the island’s community centres have been able to offer internet service to residents for a minimal charge of EC$ 20 per family per month. Purcell said this fee enables the centres to provide paper and other incidentals for the service but more importantly gave families who did not have their own computer or internet at home the same possibilities as those that were able to afford it.

Flow Grenada and BrightPath hope to launch the first training programme before the end of 2013.

Learn more about this and other community initiatives at www.discoverflow.co/grenada.

Grenada LEAPs into the Caribbean Five offering 100mbps broadband service

Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada and the Honourable Minister of Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities and ICT, Gregory Bowen applaud after the broadband speed test hits 100Mbps on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at the Flamboyant Hotel.
Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada and the Honourable Minister of Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities and ICT, Gregory Bowen applaud after the broadband speed test hits 100Mbps on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at the Flamboyant Hotel.

MORNE ROUGE, Grenada – Grenada has become one of the five Caribbean nations now offering up to 100Mbps (Megabits per second) of broadband internet service to its residents.

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013 Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Columbus Communications Grenada Ltd operating as FLOW, announced that residents were now receiving two and a half times more speed than were previously available at no additional cost through its new Let’s Evolve as People (LEAP) campaign.

“This leap in capacity is about enabling you, the customer to better utilize broadband in the areas that impact you most,” the Purcell told the officials, teachers and media gathered at the Flamboyant Hotel for the press conference. “Whether you are participating in online classes, utilising multiple smart devices at home, video chatting, or downloading large amounts of data for homework, your internet experience has just been considerably improved.”

The Honourable Minister of Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities and ICT, Gregory Bowen called Tuesday’s announcement a “remarkable achievement” and was a direct testimony to the government’s continued efforts to bring broadband to the people of Grenada.

“Our goal is to ensure that we use broadband to boost the economy,” Bowen noted. He said government services such as online payment of taxes and land registry were now within reach with health care and agriculture being other areas which could take advantage of faster internet speeds.

The minister said Flow’s increased broadband offering now meant that young people could stay on Grenada while working for international companies and become creators of content to share with the world. He acknowledged the important partnership between Columbus and the NGO, Brightpath to deploy technology focused training programmes to assist in this objective. He cited the recent BrightPath led mobile app creation workshops as an appropriate start to building and expanding the skills of youngsters.

Rhea Yaw Ching, Corporate Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Columbus, who joined the conference via video conference said Grenada was very special to Columbus as the island was one of the pioneers in the region for the use of ICT. She added that this pioneering spirit would be further enabled as Grenada would be the pilot country for several new projects to be rolled out under new partnerships with BrightPath, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and the educational software company idoodlesoftware Inc.

“Recent reports note that the Caribbean has slipped marginally in ICT performance. We must remember that we are in competition with the world. Columbus is committed to providing the infrastructure to bring the competitive advantage necessary to launch Grenada forward,” Yaw Ching stated.

Residents can immediately experience this advantage with the upgrades. Broadband Plus takes the consumer from 4Mbps to 10 Mbps, from 8Mbps to 20 Mbps and 12 Mbps to 30 Mbps. Customers can also purchase the new Turbo 100 which was tested on Tuesday by Minister Bowen and Ms. Purcell following the announcement.

Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada (left) and Akirah Licorish (ctr) present a check for EC$ 1500 to Sturling Campbell of Boca Secondary School during the launch of Flows expanded Broadband service on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at the Flamboyant Hotel, Grenada.
Gail Purcell, Country Manager of Flow Grenada (left) and Akirah Licorish (ctr) present a check for EC$ 1500 to Sturling Campbell of Boca Secondary School during the launch of Flows expanded Broadband service on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at the Flamboyant Hotel, Grenada.

Flow Grenada used the event to present a check for EC$ 1500 to Sturling Campbell of Boca Secondary School. Campbell said the school presently has about 20 computers for the more than 600 students and the funds would help with the infrastructural upgrades ahead of their plans to acquire more computers to take advantage of the free broadband available from Flow to all schools on island.

The five nations now offering up to 100Mbps broadband in the Caribbean are Curacao, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and now Grenada.

Find out more about Flow in Grenada at www.discoverflow.co/grenada.