FLOW, BL&P, Digicel, BWA not being properly regulated by government and FTC

Dr Marsha Atherley-Ikechi, CEO, Fair Trading Commission

In the early 2000s the Barbados government took the decision as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) mandate to liberalize our telecommunication sector. For many years Cable and Wireless was the single telecom player licensed to provide services in Barbados. Cable and Wireless was the classic monopoly and raked in millions if not billions in profits since its establishment in the 19th century.

With the liberalization of the sector there was high expectation from the public that with fair competition, supported by the creation of a regulator and relevant legislation there was a new dawn. The late Prime Minister Owen Arthur as lead HoG for CSME matters was quoted in 1998 as saying – “Mr. Speaker, one of the areas of gravest deficiencies in our economic affairs is the set of arrangements in place for regulating the affairs of public utilities, and monopolies and protecting the interest of consumers and producers who have to relate to such monopolies“. It is fair to opine that nearly twenty five years later, Barbados telecoms players have NOT been able to satisfactorily monitor service standards, respond to customer complaints or guarantee affordable rates among other promises.

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A Citizen’s Fight Against FLOW, no help from FTC

Barbados Underground highlights the following as a public service. If FLOW or DIGICEL want to make representation the blogmaster is open to sharing the other view. The blogmaster takes this opportunity to wish Intervenors every success in the electricity rate hearing due to commence on September 21, 2020. – Blogmaster

Around December 2, 2017, Flow moved wires from up stairs to down stairs for a telephone line,  the technician drilled the wire through the sewage pipe. Around February  2019 Digicel drilled through the same sewage pipe and installed the internet line,  The sewage was leaking through the house  at a slow pace, my grand daughter visited Barbados on holiday, and kept telling me, Granny your house is stink, I told her it the sea moss etc,  I also smelled it before and I use a lot  disinfectant sprays  to no avail, but she will still insist it stink, I searched upstairs downstairs, no dead rats, I found little small black  things like little snake coming through the bathroom sinks, in my bed I tried  grabbing one on my bed, the thing sting me like a ‘sanapee’, i found one in my house slipper so I been spraying my house slippers since.  ‘Sanapees’ and ants in the dining room and kitchen when Digicel contractor started to dig out the pipe, so many ants!

Around the month of June 2020 the Government issued a warring  asking Barbadians to secure their homes, I decided to installed bars at the windows, we had to moved the table with the computer and the one with the printer, and the carpet, that when we saw the sewerage leaking , it went under the floor boards and the stink was very strong.

I emailed Flow, their replied just a note stating we received your email  and it has a number, every time I email I got a number,  I got a letter delivered to Flow,  2 supervisors from flow came, one was very nice, the other very rude,  the nice one I knew his mother,  the rude one said Flow is not going to do that or this, In the meantime Digicel did the repairs to the house,  there did not paint the house inside or outside, just the part that was dug out and he asked me if I had any paint, I told him it maybe lighter I thought he was using it as base, but he just left it like that, Marshal the person who was in charge of the product, was to come back and redo the flooring her boss called and promised he will do the flooring and I will get compensation, so far I have not heard from him since March 2022.

After flow came and moved their wire out of the sewage and rewire, I did not hear from them. I sent a letter to Mr. Jenson Sylvester around Mar 16, 2021, no replied, so I went and demonstrated,  within 20 minutes of being outside Flow [Gabrielle  a very nice young lady  came to me, and asked to come inside so we can talk,  but I did not go, because a  beautiful young lady [Sandy] from the Nation saw me and told me she was going and get her camera and come back. Janet Taylor  and her team of lawyers we corresponded back and forth to no avail. I wrote Fair Trading, a  Mr. Stewart Carter said the commission has no jurisdiction over this matter.

I enclosed the picture of the damages, one picture is worth a thousand words.

See a few of relevant documents sent to FLOW to support claim and FLOW’s response.

Regional News: Digicel to Send Home Hundreds of Employees

Afra Raymond Citizen Advocate

Afra Raymond Citizen Advocate

Digicel preparing to fire several hundred employees globally

Digicel – a major player in the mobile, broadband and tv market across several Caribbean countries – is preparing to fire several hundred employees over the next 18 months. A new org structure will see regional hubs  – two for the Caribbean and Central America and two for the Pacific region – providing back office functions and delivering shared services.

Read full textDigicel preparing to fire several hundred employees globally

CEMEX reports tenfold increase in 2016 net income

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Despite net income skyrocketing from 75m USD in 2015 to 750m USD in 2016 – CEMEX, the Mexican multinational heavy-weight saw a decrease in its numbers across certain geographical markets including South, Central America and the Caribbean:

Read full textCEMEX reports tenfold increase in 2016 net income

The Secret Society

Our Secret Society is a Terrible Truth for us in the Republic of T&T…who is holding secrets for who and what can we do? (Recorded on Saturday, 1 October 2016) Programme Date: 20 February 2017 Programme Length: 11:46

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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.

Big Brothers Flow and Digicel?

digicel“Great News!! Cable and Wireless have partnered with the Wikimedia Foundation to allow mobile customers to surf and enjoy Wikimedia Services websites while at their home markets for FREE. This means once our mobile customers surf the Wikimedia websites their data usage will not deplete and they will NOT be charged data rates. What our mobile customers have to do? Just surf the Wikimedia websites!! A banner “Learn something new with Flow” will appear on the top of each page of the zero-rated mobile website.”
Source: Flow website

“Deep packet inspection (DPI, also called complete packet inspection and information extraction or IX) is a form of computer network packet filtering that examines the data part (and possibly also the header) of a packet as it passes an inspection point, searching for protocol non-compliance, viruses, spam, intrusions, or defined criteria to decide whether the packet may pass or if it needs to be routed to a different destination, or, for the purpose of collecting statistical information.”
Source: Wikipedia

Of-course, Flow is not the only provider that employs these kind of technologies. Digicel appears to be no stranger to DPI and DPI-like technologies. Several months ago Digicel deployed technology to block ads on its customers’ phones. What is the motive behind this? It seems like O’Brien wants a piece of the revenue pie that content providers enjoy.

Read Full Article at Suck Salt

Car Rallying in Barbados the Playground of the Whites – No Sponsorship for Black Bajan Drivers

Submitted by Angela Alleyne

chefetteAnother Rally Barbados which was held at the various venues across the island has just concluded.This yearly event continues to prove that there are indeed two Barbados’. Imagine SOL ,CHEFETTE and DIGICEL can sponsor not one, not two, but three cars to be driven by the Mayers brothers, two cars to be driven by Roger Skeete and his son Dane Skeete (who are also sponsored by FLOW) and then there is Rhett Watson and Roger Hill.

Note these are all white Bajans drivers.

BUT these major sponsors cannot see it fit to find any funds to sponsor ONE BLACK Barbadian driver and car. Is it any wonder that a black Bajan driver will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to finish in the top 10 of the rally. BUT maybe this is the plan. Not only that but we have competitors coming in from overseas who are being sponsored by LOCAL companies .Can this be right?

What is also quite ironic is that the overseas winners can be congratulated in FULL PAGE ads by their sponsors in the local media which I am sure cost more than the TOTAL sponsorship money which most of the local drivers get for a whole year. And then Roger Skeete can comment that no one is stepping up to the plate to take over the mantel in local car rallying.

I would like to inform Mr Skeete that if HALF the sponsorship money and suitable cars were available to certain local drivers that this would not be a problem.

On another note the rally marshals (99% of them black),who give of their services year after year, FREE OF COST, and who are said to be indispensable by the Chairman of the rally club, have to stand in the sun and rain doing their job and watch two marshals from overseas (white) get FREE trips and accommodation to watch Rally Barbados but no reciprocal offer is made by the said rally club to the local marshals to witness a rally overseas.

One of these days Bajans will wake up and understand how they are being used and what is really happening in this country.

Cable & Wireless (LIME) Leaps for DIGICEL’s Jugular!

Submitted by Anthony Davis

Should C&W's acquisition of FLOW be stopped?

Should C&W’s acquisition of FLOW be stopped?

The battle for the number one spot in Barbados’ lucrative telecommunications market is back on. Former monopoly provider Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) today served notice that it will not ‘roll over’ and play dead while its main competitor Digicel  continues its expansion.” – Barbados Today 6 November 2014

They have billions to spend on buying out a company to obtain monopoly status, but they don’t have any money to spend on a Barbadian Call Centre which would stop people from  asking where well-known places and towns in Barbados are? We don’t need a juggernaut – especially when LIME is involved. That will bring us more headaches than when it held the monopoly before.

I find it despicable that Flow jumped into bed with LIME without even telling its workers. That’s not the way to treat workers!

The main problem here will be the number of people who will be fired, thereby putting more strain on the Government coffers, because many will claim unemployment benefits, and some will have to go cap-in-hand to the Welfare Department also. LIME is the one with the sour grapes because it lives up to its name as spelled out in its acronym. I think that the FTC should reject this proposed amalgamation!

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No “Love Hunt” Results Yet? Is Digicel Caught Again?

Submitted by Dave Random


Image credit: Digicel

Do you remember when Digicel messes up not once but twice with their Fugitive campaign? Once when they gave an Answer before the question and had to honour many SMS winners since they were literally forearmed in 2006, then in 2009 when it seems the Fugitive was “caught” in weird circumstances at Sheraton as covered by Free Press?

Now they have a new SMS Valentine’s contest of $2500 at stake where the end was Feb. 28 and they had an Interim winner and no Final Draw yet, but they already started an Easter Hunt contest to run ’til April? Which family or friend has $2500 that Digicel did not want brought to light? Do you know Robbie Burns late of REDjet is now handling their Special Media? Perhaps he should be asked when next he’s back in Barbados? Why is he not crying in his Guinness over the loss of the Carrier? What deals did he cut?

Curiouser and curiouser!

Barbados Workers Union Has Become Irrelevant

Submitted by Philip Skeete

Sir Roy Trotman

Sir Roy Trotman

I should be grateful if you [BU]  would get in touch with Sir Roy and tell him that a strike by the members of the BWU will not cripple LIME operations in 2013. All Sir Roy will be doing is crippling the Barbados economy. LIME’s survival depends on people using cell phones. While the workers  are on strike, their idle fingers will be sending text messages to friends and family. Tops-up will be the order of the day.

Pointless boasting that the Union successfully took strike action for 3 weeks against the Telephone Company 31 years ago. Those were the days when radio telephone operators connected people  worldwide.Now every home in Barbados has a MagicJack [Skype] and while they are on strike, they will be giving their friends and family a blow by blow commentary on what is going on.

Those were the days when newspapers had to wait hours for Reuters and Associated Press stories. Today, MCTV, Direct TV and Satellite receivers mounted on top of  news media houses provide them with data before Reuters or Associated Press can get  it right. Remember the 9/11 attacks? FOX News and CNN brought the news into the homes of Barbadians. They didn’t have to wait till the following day like back in 1981 (Bartel strike) to get the news. Every day youngsters watch European football on MCTV or on satellite TV at bars all over Barbados. LIME doesn’t provide these services. Nobody is waiting for an operator to answer the phone at LIME to send a telegram to friends and family overseas, Sir Roy. MagicJack is there for that purpose.

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Barbados Rapidly Losing Regional ICT Battle And Don’t Even Know It


Barbados is rapidly losing the regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) battle with T&T, Jamaica and Grenada being increasingly recognized as regional nations of choice for international ICT business investment, this is due largely to investments these nations have made in their national ICT infrastructure. Barbados has been overly focused on the tourism industry to the detriment of many other industries like ICT, a pattern which must end.  Jamaica in the midst of their economic challenges have invested in creating a national ICT infrastructure that is now attracting international ICT investors like Digicel, which is now based in Jamaica but could/should have been based in Barbados.

What is the sense of having a well educated population if we don’t have jobs for our youth when they are done school.  It is as though we need a major shock to our idea of life and liberty in Barbados (which by the way is the only reason to vote for the DLP in the next general election).

We as a society still view diplomas on a wall as proof of a profession’s worth and as a result of this institutional thinking they are many young Bajan entrepreneurs and “doers” who will never get a chance to “shine”, just because they did not go to Harrison or Queens College or UWI.  If we as a nation are going to survive in the post-recession world, we have to change this mindset and way of thinking about education, for competitiveness sake.

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LIME’s Broadband A Tough Squeeze – Are LIME And Digicel Blocking the IMEIs Of Stolen Mobile Phones?

Posted as a comment to BU blog – Clarity Needed In Broadband Speed Sold By LIME In Barbados

LIME’s biggest problem is that they simply do not have the bandwidth available to share among it’s current subscriber base. When they first introduced ADSL their customers actually got what they were paying for. Now, the network is so congested that everyone has to fight for a piece, and this problem is especially bad in heavily populated areas where one or two fibre links have to serve a single exchange from which thousands of phone lines are served.

To their defense however, they have been constantly upgrading and installing mini exchanges all over the island to circumvent this problem, but it’s not enough. And what’s more is that they’ve increased contention ratio which only compounds the problem. I’m speaking subject to correction here but the last I heard is that it’s set at 50:1, which means that if you’re paying for 8Mb/s, then you have to share that between 8Mb/s of bandwidth with 49 other users… I don’t know about you, but that’s unacceptable considering the rates  that they’re charging when we see what they’re offering in other islands like Grenada. If they charge the same rates here that do in Grenada, then an 8Mb/s connection would be $120.66 BDS Incl VAT! A 2Mb/s connection would be $59.90 BDS incl VAT!

Haven’t you ever noticed that the internet is slower during the day (business hours) than it is at night? I can’t wait for Digicel to start offering their WiMax service for residential use…

Nuff said!

The Reference Interconnection Offer And Consumers

Submitted by Hallam Hope – Consumer Advocate and Managing Director Caritel

Hallam Hope

Hallam Hope

A Reference Interconnection Offer (RIO) might not mean a whole lot to many people but it can have a significant impact on new services and the extent to which there is competition in communications.

LIME is at the centre of a RIO consultation and a series of documents on services such as overseas calling. Companies have to interconnect so that customers of one company may communicate with those of another, for example Digicel, TeleBarbados, LIME and Blue Communications, which is offering a competitive long distance card to make calls.

In addition, the new charges could also relate to new services, since they also involve interconnection and payments between these companies to terminate calls. Essentially, LIME is trying to get the best deal for itself while other parties want to ensure that the decisions taken by the Fair Trading Commission do not disadvantage them financially and their ability to compete and offer better rates where possible.

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