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Broadband for all

Hallam Hope

Broadband for all

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Barbadians unable to have access to robust fixed Internet service can expect to have this remedied before yearend 2015, regardless of whether they live in small outlying communities such as Greenidges in St Lucy or Lynches, St Philip.

This assurance has come from a senior Cable & Wireless Caribbean (CWC) executive, who says the regional communications company aims to accelerate the availability of broadband access in the Caribbean.

Chris Dehring, head of government and regulatory for CWC, which trades in the Caribbean as LIME, said a goal set by Flow of providing 100 per cent fibre access to the home in Barbados by yearend 2015 would be met.

“It is not only on the cards but we hope to beat that (date),” he said.

If achieved it would mean that any Barbadian business, regardless of size and any household, irrespective of location, would have access to very robust broadband service, which is universally recognised as critical to education, business entrepreneurship and enhanced productivity.

Barbadians already have access to cellphones as a result of fierce competition between LIME and Digicel, while they have benefited from universal access to landline telephone service for close to a decade.

Dehring continued: “We are very excited about the broadband prospect for Barbados.”

But he noted that the market for broadband in Barbados provided opportunities for competition. This was even more glaring in the wider Caribbean where he said the region had an average of 25 per cent penetration for broadband service and for some countries such as his native Jamaica the figure was even far lower. “It is a very significant market for anyone to compete in,” he continued.

Dehring underscored the argument put by Cable & Wireless Caribbean that should a proposed acquisition of Columbus’ operations in the region by Cable & Wireless Caribbean be approved by regulators this would lead to an acceleration of Internet roll-out across the region.

He explained that rather than the two companies individually devoting resources to providing broadband services in the same streets these resources would be utilised to provide the infrastructure in areas that do not have service. He said the company was committed to providing “access to broadband to everybody in the Caribbean”.

But the senior CWC executive noted that in some countries the convergence of technologies, wireless and landline broadband would be considered, including the relatively new offering of LTE. He noted the high sunk cost associated with providing landline service but remarked that by utilising a technology such as LTE, acceleration of broadband could be achieved. LTE or Long Term Evolution is a 4G wireless technology capable of providing greater and faster Internet service than some landline or other wireless options.

Dehring also expressed support for continued dialogue with consumers, Governments and regulators and welcomed the decision by member states of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) to collaborate with the regulator in Trinidad and Tobago, Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, to conduct a deeper analysis of the proposed acquisition of Columbus’ operations in the Caribbean, which trade as Flow, by Cable & Wireless Caribbean.

The matter requires regulatory approval in those countries where LIME and Flow currently trade.

Hallam Hope is a long-standing writer and researcher on communications in the Caribbean.