September 03, 2012
A top businessman is calling on industry regulators to impose a million-dollar penalty on Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) for every month of disrupted service. Dionisio D'Aguilar, the president of Superwash, said the sole mobile services provider in the country needs to "bear the consequences" of poor service and broken promises.
D'Aguilar, who is also a former head of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, which is now the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), felt there needs to be appropriate protection for consumers. While he supports the privatization of the sector, BTC must be held to the same first-world standards of similar companies in North America or Europe
. "If this was New York City, do you think they would collapse the existing system and build a new system?" he asked. "No, they would lose all of their customers to competitors. Who is protecting the consumer? They are a private company. They need to bear the consequences of this service. They should be fined $1 million per month until they get it right.
That's the penalty." Marlon Johnson, BTC's vice president of marketing and sales, did not issue a statement despite repeated requests. D'Aguilar's comments join those of many frustrated businesses and residents in The Bahamas concerning dropped calls, failed calls and inconsistent service. Although most Bahamians agree that infrastructural improvements have been made, questions remain regarding the persistent issues and the manner by which the work has been done.
"Right now we are in a state of collapse," D'Aguilar told Guardian Business. "That is unacceptable. They should have built a parallel system and transition us. You don't collapse one and make us all suffer lousy service." Winston Rolle, the CEO of the BCCEC, agreed that Bahamians have been increasingly "living with these problems".
In terms of the cellular system, he noted, from a business community perspective, that this service is no longer considered a luxury. Having a functioning cellular service has become an expected staple of doing business. "It does impact our ability to do business. It definitely needs to be addressed or fixed very quickly," Rolle said. "We all have the frustrations of having a dropped call, or trying three or four times before it goes through."
Fearing the development of a "society of never-ending projects", the CEO said more information is needed and definitive deadlines in place for the full functionality of the network. That said, Rolle praised the substantial capital BTC has invested in The Bahamas since the acquisition of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).
And when the network is working properly, it will rival those in North America, he added. D'Aguilar told Guardian Business he "supports privatization 100 percent", and urged the government to "stop worrying" about the 51 percent owned by CWC. Instead, businessmen like D'Aguilar just want the phones to work properly.
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