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CEO Leon Williams Addresses Bahamas Society of Engineers

2014-11-11

BTC CEO Leon Williams joined executives from BEC, Water and Sewerage Company, and Consolidated Water (Bahamas) to address attendees of the recent Bahamas Society for Engineer’s Annual Conference and the theme, “Public Private Partnership (P3) in the Effective Delivery of Projects.” The executives, all touted as P3 pioneers, spoke to the packed Melia Hotel room on why utilities have taken the lead in P3 in The Bahamas and what concerns and issues face utility companies as the market changes.     

CEO Williams noted that P3s bring together a perfect marriage of expertise and resources for the betterment of the country, pointing to several examples within Bahamas’ history in telecommunications.

“There has always been a relationship between the public and private sectors in Bahamian Telecommunications.  Cable Beach got its name when in 1892 the government of The Bahamas joined with Marconi to build the country’s first telegraph cable from Jupiter Beach to Goodman’s Bay. More recently, in 2001 government gave Columbus Communications the concessions to land in the Bahamas and develop ARCOS a submarine cable connecting 14 Caribbean countries to USA.

“Look at the BDSNi, a $70million BTC project that connects the islands of the Bahamas to each other and to Haiti. Let it be known that everything south of Eleuthera is a cost centre, not a profit center, and a private company couldn’t lay a cable that far south.

However, BTC’s service obligation by law is that BTC must provide public telecommunication services to any island settlement in the Bahamas that has 10 or more household.”

“According to an IDB Report on Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012, broadband is more expensive and less used in Caribbean countries than the global average. The digital divide is stark within this region, particularly when comparing coverage in urban vs. rural areas. Much of this is due to cost. The costs of implementing a single line of dial tone in Nassau is $470 whereas in San Salvador it is $4200.  It becomes a barrier to broadband development; the obstacles facing broadband development are so formidable that the private sector will not be able to face them alone. The OECD recommends governments adopt regulations to help reduce the cost of  civil works needed to expand broadband networks.

Even in the USA and Australia, most of the telecommunications networks, particularly the rural networks are subsidised by the government. So there is a need for government to join with the private sector and provide leadership in initiatives to reduce not only the digital divide, but also to use digital means to narrow the socio-economic gap.”

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