ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda:
The mobile service provider’s stance is in response to claims by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) that Digicel owes it EC$5,329,514 (US$1,984,921) for circuits provided over the last seven years for the purpose of connecting Digicel’s mobile customers to customers of other providers and for completing Digicel’s long distance calls over the Cable and Wireless International cable system. APUA has given Digicel until December 1 to resolve the issue or face partial or full disconnection.
However, the company responded in a statement that it “does not believe that APUA is correct in its claim that Digicel has an outstanding bill of EC$5 million owing to them”.
“This accusation is without merit and we intend to resolve this matter through the appropriate channels,” it said. “Digicel would like to assure its customers that it is business as usual, and that it will do everything in its power to ensure that Digicel services will not be disrupted while this matter is being resolved.”
The souring relations between the two intensified last week when Digicel blamed APUA for congestion problems on its network.
APUA responded with the threat to disconnect unless the outstanding payments were made.
In a release issued Sunday, the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology said it has been concerned since last year about the issue of congestion across networks, particularly the networks that connect Digicel with APUA and, by extension, LIME and PCS.
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr. Edmond Mansoor, noted that with the introduction of liberal ‘talk away’ plans by both Digicel and LIME, the degree of congestion across all the networks has increased four-fold.
“This congestion is affecting all mobile phone users in the state of Antigua and Barbuda, including calls from a mobile phone to a fixed phone in a home or business,” said Mansoor. “With a mobile penetration rate of over 120 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, everyone is being inconvenienced.”
Mansoor called on all parties to reach a resolution to the matter.
“I am calling on APUA, APUA PCS, LIME and Digicel to recognize that this congestion is affecting everyone, and that a speedy resolution to this matter is best found through constructive dialogue around a table.
“The government cannot accept the disruption of any mobile telephony services, particularly since these services are at the centre of ensuring competitive services by government as well as small and medium sized businesses,” said Mansoor.
Digicel has denied claims by Antigua and Barbuda’s state-owned public utilities company that it owes millions of dollars in unpaid bills and has told its customers not to worry because “it’s business as usual”.