Digicel Faces Possible Disconnection Millions Owed

The Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) is threatening to cut off Digicel, unless it settles millions of dollars in arrears by the beginning of next month.

In letters sent to Digicel’s OECS General Manager John Delves this week, the APUA, which provides interconnect capacity for the mobile phone provider, demanded payment of the EC$5,329,514 (US$1,984,921) that has been racked up in services provided over the past seven years.

“This issue needs to be addressed immediately as APUA will pursue its options, including the possible complete suspension of services to Digicel in Antigua and Barbuda if this issue is not resolved to our satisfaction by December 1, 2010,” APUA’s Telecommunications Manager, Curtis McKay wrote in one of two letters dated November 15th.

“In addition to any other actions which will be taken by APUA if this matter is not resolved in an expeditious manner, we will give strong consideration to the application of interest charges at a rate of 12 percent per year,” he added.

This is the latest development in a dispute between the two service providers, as Digicel recently blamed APUA for congestion problems on its network.

In a statement issued late yesterday evening, APUA said that while it stands ready to increase network capacity available to Digicel, the telecoms company must pay its bills like all other consumers of APUA’s products and services.

In an attempt to “set the record straight”, APUA released to the media the correspondence to Delves. One letter was apparently a response to Digicel’s request for alleviation of serious congestion on interconnection links between the two providers, and the other related specifically to the outstanding debt.

The letter highlighting the arrears noted that since July 2003, APUA has provided an increasing number of circuits for the purpose of connecting Digicel’s mobile customers to Cable and Wireless and APUA customers and for completing Digicel’s long distance calls over the Cable and Wireless International cable system.

According to the APUA correspondence, Digicel made one payment of EC$535,486 (US$199,436) in 2006 and nothing since then.

In the other letter, which was copied to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Minister of State in the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology, Edmond Mansoor and other APUA officials, McKay also referred to the debt and addressed the interconnection issues raised by Digicel.

He also wrote at that time that “APUA only wants to be paid and does not want to have a public battle, but is prepared to do so if needed”.

“To be clear, APUA will provide no additional services until all arrears are brought up to date, and will use all our resources to include partial or complete disconnection of all Digicel services to garner the monies owed,” McKay added.

Digicel has not yet issued a public response.


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