Telecoms monopoly fight goes to court

ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Thursday September 30, 2010 – Digicel has had enough of its rival’s monopoly on international calls coming in and out of Antigua and Barbuda, and it has gone to court to break it.

The company has announced that it has started legal proceedings in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court challenging the exclusive monopoly held by Cable & Wireless.

In this latest court battle, Digicel said it is seeking “various declarations from the court concerning the validity of Cable and Wireless licence as well as various declarations that the continued imposition of this Cable and Wireless international monopoly breaches fundamental provisions of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda.”

Those constitutional provisions relate to the Protection of Freedom of Expression, including Freedom of the Press.

The company noted that that with the exception of Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda is the only territory in the Caribbean where the telecommunications market is not fully liberalized. And in the case of Guyana, the government recently announced plans to table new legislation by the end of the year that is expected to bring an end to the monopoly on international services currently held by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.

LIME, Cable & Wireless’ Caribbean operations, has responded to Digicel’s legal manoeuvre, accusing its competitor of playing tit for tat. 

“LIME notes that Digicel has taken the Government of Antigua and Barbuda (and by extension the people of Antigua and Barbuda) to court because it has been sued by LIME for illegally bypassing LIME’s international gateway in contravention of LIME’s exclusive license,” it said in a statement. 

Under the exclusive license, Digicel is restricted from making international calls on its own and must route them through LIME’s network.

The telecommunications rivals are actually heading to court today on that lawsuit. 

LIME wants an immediate end to Digicel bypassing its network. It is also asking the court to order Digicel to pay EC$23 million (US$8.5 million) which is the sum that LIME says it and the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) have lost over the past three years as a result of Digicel bypassing the network.

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