FLOW and DIGICEL Are SELF Regulating Entities

Digicel charging point

Digicel charging point

There is a new initiative in the market. Digicel has partnered with Adopt a Stop to provide charging points at bus shelters across Barbados – read about it Bus shelters getting charging points. The first thought was how long does one expect to be at a bus stop to be able to appreciate the value in charging a mobile device? Then reality struck with the realization that this is Barbados where we continue to struggle with public transportation. Recently the matter was robustly discussed in a forum with some of Barbados’ finest in the IT field and it resulted in some interesting information coming to the fore.

Every day Barbadians are inundated with messages from the mobile companies –the bigger faster network, the network with the fastest broadband speed, 3G,4G,4G LTE. To many Barbadians this is all greek, however, they are willing to part with their hard earned cash because it is fashionable to go with the FLOW these days.

There was agreement among some of the IT specialist in the discussion that Digicel and FLOW should allocate a chunk of their marketing dollars to improving customer service and infrastructure. We know this to be wishful thinking. Why do it if the penetration and usage rates in Barbados continue to increase?

The concern David (BU) raised in the forum was to question the role of the regulator (FTC) to independently certify that the two mobile networks are delivering on promises to consumers. Are the two networks delivering 4G services or 4G LTE for that matter? Does the FTC have a system in place to perform periodic quality assurance? How can consumers test that there is truth in the advertising by DIGICEL and FLOW.

Here is an interesting point made by one of the IT specialist:

Niel Harper David King, we would expect FTC to have a system for providing said quality assurance. As far back as 2011, both LIME and Digicel claimed to be delivering 4G services but were not. They did two things to trick an unsuspecting public:

  1. They used a weak loophole that the ITU permits whereby any organization that has deployed 3G+ and shows intent to move to 4G can claim that their network was 4G-ready for developmental purposes.
  2. They flashed the phones they sold to artificially display a 4G signal when they received a 3G+ signal.

So for almost 4 years, Bajans were told that both providers had 4G networks when they didn’t. And now the companies are really investing in 4G networks, and no one saw it fit to cite this as false advertisement back in 2011. Our regulators and government officials allowed this to happen.

David (BU) asked the IT specialist to unpack the above statement so that the non technical among us are able to understand:

The FTC or Telecoms Unit don’t employ independent assessors to validate the technology or speed of the network. Regulation is supposed to be technology neutral. That being said, a 3G network cannot crank up to 4G (it’s not technically possible). They are two different technologies; 3G is generally HSPA and 4G is LTE. 3G speeds go up to 168 Mb and 4G speeds go up to 300 Mb. And those numbers are theoretical because you will seldom get those speeds on a network you’re sharing with many users and is not sufficiently tuned or optimized. What they did is straight up fraudulent advertising.

In the same way there is a lack of financial reporting expertise in the traditional media the same applies to technology matters. The average Bajan does not know how to test for download/upload speed to keep the networks honest based on their package. The vast majority are happy to pay the bill and complain abut the service to the neighbour or work colleague.

Telecom operators generate millions of dollars annually off the backs of Barbadians. The least we expect is for our government to regulate the market with eyes wide open not wide shut. We have not forgotten the decision by the FTC to allow FLOW and C&W to merge therefore monopolizing the data segment of the market. In fact the market is still in chaos with many subscribers having to manage a two bill payment system because ostensibly FLOW continues to manage separate platforms while freely advertising as the single entity that is FLOW. We will observe if SOL is allowed to do the same to the petroleum market in Barbados given the recent sale of BNTLC. to SOL pending FTC approval –Sir Kyffin Simpson.

Many of the popular media practitioners have been co-opted by FLOW and DIGICEL to promote their products. And the media houses received significant advertising dollars from DIGICEL and FLOW.

What is the regulator doing to protect the consumer!

Follow the Facebook conversation with the IT professionals.

18 thoughts on “FLOW and DIGICEL Are SELF Regulating Entities

  1. I would like to know how this Government came to the conclusion that SOL is the only company to which it could sell the BNTLC? Isn’t it usual to place an ad in the press for people in the particular field to bid for the relative Government entity which is being sold? Why must everything be done covertly?

  2. If bajans were indeed smart, they would know they have the power in their pockets to cut the revenue to both Flow and Digicel by using their cell phones much less, for emergencies only, punish these two companies for using fraud and false advertising to blatantly rip off bajans.

  3. https://www.barbadostoday.bb/2017/01/13/parris-tired-of-waiting-to-get-back-his-money/

    I had to read this twice to make sure I was seeing right, after stealing this money from policyholders with the help of his buddy Thompson, Leroy Parris really got some nerve, the court already ruled the money is not his, it was stolen from policyholders, but he is tired of waiting to get it back…lol….., the judiciary is really misused and abused by the thieves and their lawyers in Barbados, no wonder there is no justice for those people who are not thieves.

    …….at least he now knows how CLICO policyholders and other claimants felt when as head of CLICO, he refused to pay them their money…crook.

  4. If Bajans have sold their kitchens (utilities) to greedy strangers, why are we now surprised that they are charging us extravagant prices for shiite food?
    What did we expect…? …that they would spoon feed us with gourmet meals…?

    A brass bowl and his money are easily parted…. especially a brass bowl who can be convinced that a cell phone is his most critical necessity…. so that he can complain to other brass bowls with cell phones how they are being ripped off by the greedy strangers…

  5. The very end of this thread mirrors a whatsapp message I sent to brass tacks the last time David Ellis moderated. The advertising dollar has served as a muzzle since time immemorial, and that’s an indisputable fact. Of course he ignored the message.That’s par for the course.We see advertisements about Thanksgiving sales in Barbados. We know of places in Barbados that Bajans have renamed like Flatbush and others. One can only wonder when will the copycat mentally trend in the right direction? High class wufflessness that was met with the usual Bajan passivity permitted the merger of Lime and Flow and the masses are content to suffer in silence….As you have queried David what stops SOL sometime soon from seeking to monopolize the market? National Standards and the FTC are toothless tigers standing guard over a country that seeks to emulate first world status….but only where the bottom of the barrel is concerned.

    • @Hamilton and Bush Tea

      We know for reasons discussed the media is compromised by the advertising dollar. There should be a reasonable expectation that our regulator should act onbehalf of consumers. Imagine this morning a manager from EMERA chiding Barbados that consumers would be benefitting if the company was allowed oil price has risen, of course she had to admit if the reverse had occurred the opposite would have been the case.

  6. If Bajans are good for one thing it must be the way we wordsmith things.

    Instead of seeing these telecoms as bloodsuckers, neo-liberal economic formations.

    We see them as ‘self-regulating’. Where is the ‘self’ in this?

    As if the hierarchy is the only thing that matters.

    As if the people paying these bills every months are merely incidental.

    As if the so-called customers could only be serfs

    That there are must never be community-centred telecom networks offering unlimited broadband services for free.

  7. Well Well

    That’s only a misguided symbolism.

    When underlying structures of racism are no less operative

    We want to know how come the man who is behind that could not have tackled the structures.

    He ‘was’ nothing, but a puss!

  8. True Pacha…to be noted, when it suits their purposes, read financial, they always return to their black beginnings.

  9. FLOW is spending a fortune trying to convince Bajans what a good corporate citizen it is. They have sponsored everything they can get their hands on: Barbados Olympic Association; Oistins Fish Fry; Gospel Fest; the list goes on and on. Hardly a week goes by that their communications person Marilyn Sealy is not in the papers posing for the camera and handing over a cheque. If FLOW puts in new light bulbs at head office she sends in a press release to the Nation. She used to work there, so her friends make sure it is published. AS for the oil terminal, it has been known for well over a year that Simpson would get it. This government owes him so much money already that it could not say no.

    • @flyonthewall

      You do understand how the traditional media is manipulated. It is why almost all of the corporate communications specialists hired by the leading companies in Barbados are former journalist.

  10. @ BU,
    You people seem to forget our history conveniently. Flow was owned by one entity, and came into Barbados because there was a market, for competitors to C&W. C&W also owned LIME. C&W (International) bought out the Parent company of Flow, so it owned Columbus, Lime, and also Flow. Competition was thus effectively blocked…as the calypsonian sang, “All o we is one>” The government of Barbados, or any of its agencies like the FTC could not control what C&W international does, in its business dealings. The FTC mandate is to regulate nothing more. I heard the head of the PSV operators bemoaning the fact that they could not “get a Piece” of BNTOC. They knew even before 2008 of the state of the company. They knew it was going to be sold; OSA indicated such when he was in office. They could easily have solicited funding; collectively, to put in a bid for the purchase of the company. Rubin put in a bid, and who knows how many others. Did they expect the government to give it to them? They must become familiar with the functioning and business practices of the corporate world. And is they do not know, hire the expertise to assist them. They have to become more business oriented. Nothing is free in this world, and if you want to operate a successful business, you have to be in the room from the beginning.

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