~ So that savings can provide free WiFi ~
PHILIPSBURG–TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kendall Dupersoy says it is questionable why tourism officials would support free service to visitors to the island, while locals have to pay for everything.
Dupersoy was responding at the time to the comments made by Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTP) St. Maarten representatives who indicated that they supported the exploratory talks for free WiFi for visitors to the island, which Dupersoy does not support.
Dupersoy said in a letter to the editor that St. Maarten is a service island which sells service. “That is what we do. We doubt very much that a visitor would be online and would say they will not come to St. Maarten because we don’t have free WiFi,” he said.
He said that while he welcomes BTP’s comments on his public message of “caution” about providing “completely free WiFi in St. Maarten,” he felt compelled to respond further to “some untrue or misguided statements contained in that response.”
Dupersoy said it is not his intention to enter into a back-and-forth with BTP and its officials, but he wants to make his position as the TelEm Group CEO “abundantly clear.”
He said TelEm Group provides the livelihood of just over 150 families on the island as well as numerous clients and subcontractors and their families also. “When the company contributes more than US $50 million each year to the St. Maarten economy and the continuity of our business is threatened, we have a duty to respond in the strongest terms,” he said.
He said it is not true, as stated by the BTP, that there exists free public WiFi as common practice in many countries, cities and island territories.
“It may well be true that tourists are allowed a limited speed or limited Internet user experience, but unlimited free Internet island-wide is just not available in the manner that is being suggested or proposed for St. Maarten,” he said.
“On social media we acknowledge negative comments sometimes about TelEm Group service and pricing. We are working very hard at improving these for our valued customers. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve service and lower prices if we give away a key service to 3,000,000 visitors (TelEm Group’s largest market) each year. To put it simply, while the visitor market remains, we can provide cost-effective pricing to everyone, but take away that market and the viability of low-cost Internet goes out of the window.”
He said BTP is correct when it states that there are large telecom providers that make WiFi hotspots available for visitor use, but BTP does not state that access to these hotspots is more, often than not, limited to their customers and included in a service package – customers are in effect still paying for the service. “In fact, TelEm Group is looking into this option for our customers as a means of improving service in busy areas,” he said.
Dupersoy said TelEm has added its voice to these “exploratory talks” because it is important that the total picture is given, including the consequences.
“It behoves the Ministry of [Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication – Ed.] TEATT to get a clear picture of its own regarding the debate of free internet for St. Maarten by discussing the options with TelEm Group where the Ministry can be provided with proper information about the effect this can have on a Government-owned company. It seems ironic that in a period when the Minister of Finance is trying to increase Government income, the Ministry of TEATT is proposing to give away a profitable service for free.
“Discussion is healthy and TelEm Group does not intend to stand in the way of any reasonable and sensible developments that will improve telecommunication services for everyone in St. Maarten. Indeed, we are not against providing limited free Internet to visitors, only we believe that such a service should be provided by the local telecommunication company and not by the Ministry of TEATT with an international vendor making such a service available,” he said.
He urges the Ministry of TEATT to include TelEm Group in the ongoing dialogue so that together the best telecommunication services possible can be provided to everyone – including visiting customers. “The Ministry would do well to persuade the BTP to reduce TelEm Group’s telecommunication concession fees to the extent that every dollar saved would go into providing the free WiFI service that the BTP seems so keen to offer,” he said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68088-dupersoy-suggests-btp-lower-telem-group-concession-fees