The government of Antigua and Barbuda has revealed plans to invest millions of dollars in state-owned fixed and broadband operator Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) to improve its competitiveness in the local market. The Jamaica Observer cites Prime Minister Gaston Browne as saying that APUA will spend XCD80 million (USD29.6 million) on its infrastructure – including its own sub-sea cable – to ensure that companies have access to improved broadband speeds/bandwidth to compete in an increasingly global economy. ‘APUA will invest XCD80 million to acquire its own sub-sea cable and to democratise access to the internet through the provision of more affordable, reliable and faster internet service to residents,’ Mr Browne confirmed, throwing down the gauntlet to privately-owned Digicel Group which is also active in the islands. ‘Although they [Digicel] have made considerable profits here which we do not begrudge them and to which they were entitled under the arrangements of their initial investments, they have not provided us with the technology required at prices that are fair and affordable,’ Browne is quoted as saying in a radio and TV broadcast.
The paper notes that only last month Digicel (Antigua and Barbuda) confirmed its aim to secure a meeting with the prime minister after he accused the Irish-owned company, as well as another provider, of ‘raping’ the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Digicel has said that with serious issues around the liberalisation of the fixed line market and number portability to name but two, the government’s latest decision marks ‘just the latest in a series of moves being made to stifle competition in the telecoms market in Antigua and Barbuda for the benefit of the state-owned APUA’. In the meantime, however, the government is forging ahead with its plans. It has already passed legislation to ensure number portability and to implement measures to ensure the equitable redistribution of the 850MHz spectrum band among domestic operators, and Browne has said that the APUA investment will resonate into other sectors of the economy.