COMMENTARY: Questions About The Spectrum


by Yves Ephraim

As I listen to the mud slinging going on in the public media, I refuse to reduce my thinking to that level.

I am really only interested in understanding what are the underlying, big-picture facts and having determined what those are then I will seek to suggest a principled approach on how we might achieve a fix to the situation in which we find ourselves.

As the debate wages on on what is considered the “fair” allocation of radio spectrum, the first question you must ask yourself is: who has the power to allocate radio frequencies? The second is: can APUA, C&W or Digicel allocate frequencies to themselves?

I daresay that only the government of Antigua and Barbuda has the authority to allocate radio frequencies. So what can we conclude from this?

The logical conclusion that can be inferred from all of this, is if we now find ourselves in a situation where spectrum has been unfairly allocated, then the only one culpable for this state of affairs, is the government of Antigua and Barbuda, regardless of political administration.

It is therefore fair to say that had the government being operating in a “fair” and neutral way from the beginning we would not have found ourselves in this quagmire.

I believe that understanding who or what is responsible for this confusion sets the context for how we might fix the problem.

If we start from the premise that government is responsible for this crisis, then it means that it cannot rightfully pass the blame onto anyone else. It also means that the government cannot rightfully take the moral high ground on this issue.

The government must adopt a stance that it, and no one else, is to blame. It, therefore, cannot blame the players in the telecom industry for rightfully looking after their self-interests. It is for this reason that the government regulates this industry in the first place.  It is well understood that if the independent players we left to themselves to decide how frequency spectrum were divvied up, there would be vastly unfair allocations and far more fights like this.

So how did we get here despite the government’s authority to regulate fairly? This answer is left open to wide speculation.

So how do we go about remedying this issue?

For me the only acceptable approach it to bring all parities behind closed doors and have a reasonable discussion on the matter. This matter, in my humble opinion, should have never been brought into the public domain.

It is clear to me that there is an underlying breakdown of trust between the government and those that it regulates. Consequently, we now see this matter brought before the legal courts and the court of public opinion for resolution.

None of those two courts may necessarily produce an optimal solution that is in the best interest of all stakeholders including the tax payers of this country.

I do not agree that the solution should be a unilateral decree of the government to compulsorily revoke leased property when there is no evidence that the players broke the law in having more than what is considered their fair share.

Now that this matter has reached this far, we see that we are on the cusp of violating principles that we claim we espouse as a nation. What I am witnessing is that the government is now set to violate the principles of  “property rights” for the sake of expediency. This is a big thing for me because it transcends this current issue.

To bring this issue into focus more clearly, let me draw a corollary to the current situation by way of example.

Let us suppose that you went to the government of the day and after completing all of the legal requirements of your application, you were successful in gaining a 20 year lease to 1 acre of land for your farming project.

With your 20 year lease in hand you go about buying your tools, machinery and equipment;  you buy your seeds; you hire your workers; you get a loan; and you plow the plot. From your business plan you determine that you would break even by year 10. How would you feel if in year 8 of operating your farm, you get a notice from government telling you that in the interest of ‘fair’ allocation of farm lands, you are now forced to give up 50% of the land immediately?  How fair is that? You followed the rules, you did nothing to break the law but yet, you are now asked to suffer loss by no fault of your own!

That act of government, in my opinion, is a violation of your property rights. The concept of property rights is the foundation of any free market economy. This is one of the concepts behind the “Ease of Doing Business” surveys.

Is Antigua and Barbuda a totalitarian state?

What message is the government sending to the business community? Is it saying that on a whim it can randomly take away the rights of legitimate individuals or companies to enjoy the benefits of the property they own or lease?

To me, this is an omen. Today, the telecom industry is pillaged and nationalized, tomorrow it may be the hotel industry and thereafter, it may be my private home. Where will this end?

My conclusion to all of this is that this problem was created by government and therefore government should not simply violate the “property rights” of the players in the industry as an ostensible means to fix the mess it created. This creates a double whammy for the industry.

This matter needs to go back to the negotiating table behind closed doors and with a spirit that the property rights of each player will be respected. If the government wants something that someone rightfully holds, the only way it can have it is: a) by the involved party willingly giving it up or; b) by taking it by force, and it such case, the dispossessed party is entitled to a fair market price for his property, as the laws of compulsory acquisition already dictate.

Personally, I am never in favour of forcibly taking away someone’s legitimate property. This is normally call theft, whether done by an individual, a group of individuals or the government.

Let’s get back to the negotiating table.

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    • Yves Ephraim is a technology expert, one who has worked within the telecommunication field for quite a number of years. He is also the Managing Director of Pegasus Technologies. I am answering your question because I have noticed a trend here on this forum. If someone’s message is not in sync with ours, then we attack the messenger. Yves Ephraim is as fair a person as I have ever known with no axe to grind. I think his piece was balanced and without biased.

      • Attack? “Who is Yves Ephraim?” is what constitutes an attack in YOUR mind? It was a genuine question. I have never heard of him. What is so wrong about wanting to know who the writer of an article is? It lends clarity and perspective to the author’s work to understand the context of the oped.

        That question must’ve irked you for a reason. Get a grip!

  1. Thank you Yves. I have long been advocating this common sense approach. Neither Digicel nor Flow has done any wrong. The fact that they were allocated certain spectrum frequencies should not give anyone the right to hound them as is now happening in the press. I certainly hope that commonsense would prevail and as you said, everyone get back to the negotiating table and iron out the issues in camera.

  2. Negoation is certainly needed to resolve this issues. The shortsightedness on Gov. Rep. and the willingness of private sector to secure themselves. Let’s see how it plays out.

  3. Well said Mr. Ephraim.
    We do not learn from our mistakes and love repeating history.
    We are shooting ourselves in the foot with these public attacks on private enterprise while we traverse the globe looking for foreign investments.
    The private sector is under attack from this administration and their choir singers who are paid to co-sign any ignorance submitted in their daily talking points.

    Half Moon Bay
    Scotia Bank
    All Canadian Banks

    One can’t help but notice the reverence reserved for the Chinese speculators like Yida and the state of the Power plant (aka White Elephant), some Will Yida’s land be taken away in the upcoming years or reduced for ‘public’ use?
    Cant forget how the choir singers were calling for an investigation into the WPP old engines now they quiet like church mouse cause this one is not in the hymn book.

      • At least I don’t use 2 different handles like you. Who are you hiding from?

        No I forgot to mention all the local stores and supermarkets that closed also to be replaced by the Chinese takeover.

        How about the WPP, are the engines new now your party is indebted to the Chinese?

        The word is penchant btw

  4. Problem with the writers logic is it ignores the PM’s statement to the foreign telecoms, from over a week ago, that they should come to the negotiation table. It also ignores the statement by the minister of Telecoms, that government would compensate the telecom providers for any expense they incur in making the change. So why would Yves ignore all of this? Is it that the noise kept him from hearing? One does not take the time to write a piece like this without research, so what really is blinding my friend Yves?

    • Why are you posting under a different name???? You are the chief choir singer for the ALP and your position that government will compensate anyone r anything is a joke.

      This government cannot, will not and is not in the fiscal position to compensate anyone. They can’t even pay salaries on time, owe all the contractors, don’t pay back loans so their promises to pay are not worth the paper it’s written on.
      Stop co signing ignorance, we have now become the most hostile environment to do business in the Caribbean.

  5. Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock! This is the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015 – 2024!
    “It goes without saying that (one) cannot function properly as a scientist or humanist if he or
    she does not adequately locate the phenom in time and space. This means that chronology is as important in some situations as location. The two aspects of analysis are central to any proper understanding of society, history, or personality. Inasmuch as phenoms are active, dynamic, and diverse in our society, the Afrocentric method requires the scientists to focus on accurate notations and recording of space and time.” – Asante!
    TIME and SPACE: 2009 – 2013; 4 Years of IMF’s NEST Plan Of Fiscal Adjustment & Structural Reform!
    “A UPP Administration, being cognisant of the Current financial situation, will seek to implement policies that will improve the fiscal performance of the government.
    “Our objective will be to: Privatise certain unprofitable public-sector enterprises;
    “The Enterties earmarked for divestment are: The Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority; The Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority, The State Insurance Corporation; The Electricity Department of the APUA; The Telecoms Department of The APUA;”
    Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks, and sees the world. People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality, often a significant loss of contact with reality. Schizophrenia is a challenging disorder that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, think clearly, manage emotions, relate to others, and function normally.
    The Un-elected Arab Trader Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister (January, 2005 -June, 2014) with responsibility for Telecommunications, Science and Information Technology was charged with the following task: “Telecommunications. Therefore the UPP will: Regulate, redefine and strengthen objectives and strategies of the APUA Board & Management and Cable & Wireless; Open all local value-added service to competition and regulation; …” Ruthlessly and with efficient Arab Trader self interest he carried out the above Tactical Objectives aided ably by the two International Telecoms who not only received a high quality wireless spectrum but also a pecuniary advantage! Inet atrophied and withered!
    When those licences were issued, this mere voice in the wilderness lamented the lack of transparency and fairness! Rather than repeating the arguments, it will suffice to state the Goals that the more advanced jurisdictions around the globe encourage: ensure efficient use of the spectrum; promote economic opportunity and competition; avoid excessive concentration of licenses; prevent the unjust enrichment of any party; foster the rapid deployment of new services: as well as, recover for the public a portion of the value of the spectrum!
    “Come, then, comrades; it would be as well to decide at once to change our ways. We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind. The new day which is already at hand must find us firm, prudent and resolute.” – Frantz Fanon!

    • “The Enterties earmarked for divestment are: The Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority; The Antigua & Barbuda Port Authority, The State Insurance Corporation; The Electricity Department of the APUA; The Telecoms Department of The APUA” End of quote.

      APUA is already privatized for all intent and purposes but it’s not us the Antiguans who are the owners.

      Check the car dealer and MP for that.

      When last the so called owners got a vote as a shareholder?
      When last the so called owners got paid any dividends on profits?
      When last the so called owners attended a shareholder meeting?
      i Have never received my copy of the audited financial statements of APUA.

      APUA is not OURS and never was.

      Because the ministers say it doesn’t mean it’s factual, you’re beginning to sound like the paid choir singer who parrots the politicians pronouncements as facts.

      • Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock! My Haitian Hero, “Come now, and let us reason together, …” – Isaiah!
        “APUA is already privatized for all intent and purposes but it’s not us the Antiguans who are the owners. … Check the car dealer and MP for that. … APUA is not OURS and never was.” – Deassalines ANR 061919!
        What do you know that People of African Descent in this the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015 – 2024 resident on the Rock don’t Know about the Arab Trader and the Planter’s Progeny MP (Morgan 2011)! Please uncover the masks behind the rhetoric of power, privilege, and position and provide clarity by exposing our dislocations, disorientations, and decenteredness so that the People of African Descent can reassert a sense of agency in order to achieve sanity (Asante 2009)!
        Be Revolutionary and Transformative by speaking Truth To Power as you locate the Privateer and Privatization, in Time and Space, to the dislocated, disoriented, and decentered African Antiguans!
        The People of African Descent are depending on you to leave your lair in the Citadel and Expose The Buccaneers!
        “It’s a long, long road From which there is no return While we’re on the way to there
        Why not share? And the load Doesn’t weigh (You) down at all He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother!”

        • you think you can reason with a dunce element? You go on. I guess he fail to say Antigua and Barbuda is not ours.

  6. Really Yves Ephraim? I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the facts of a matter before commenting on same. Who is taking ‘someone property’? I normally would not comment on these ‘opinions’ but this was so stupid (in my opinion) that I could not let it go without a comment.

  7. “Personally, I am never in favour of forcibly taking away someone’s legitimate property. This is normally call theft, whether done by an individual, a group of individuals or the government.” This statement is quite telling, Mr Ephraim. You speak of “legitimate property”. All of the facts show that Digicel and Flow DID NOT obtain the property legitimately. Just ask the telecommunications officer who became a manager at one of the companies. THAT is the crux of the issue.

    • No telecommunication officer could make any spectrum allocation without the blessings of the minister responsible and by extension the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda. Government is continuous and so this is a perfect case of government fighting government. The telecommunication companies looked after their interest so why are we blaming them?

      • Let me put a scenario before you, Mr Phillip, and I want you to answer me as honest as you can. Let’s say you had a piece of land, and you want to allocate it to your three children in equal (or near equal) amounts. You hire a land surveyor and gave him said instructions. The land surveyor went behind your back, and decided to divide the land between two of your children, and excluded the third child. You then find out that the land surveyor now works with one of the two children who got a half of the land that was intended for three. Would you not find something wrong with that? Knowing that one of your children was unfairly treated, would you not seek to remedy the situation such that each gets their just share?

        • My friend, I will answer your question as asked. YES I would try and fix the problem. Not certain of its relevance to the issue at hand though. You are imputing that the telecommunications officer knowingly and intentionally exclude APUA from its ‘rightful” share of the spectrum. Lets say for argument sake that you are right……my point is the telecommunication officer answers to the Minister who would have had to sign off on this. I do not want anyone to get me wrong. I never said that the government should not try to get spectrum parity (each telecoms company sharing the spectrum). What I am saying is that both Flow and Digicel got the spectrum legally and they should not be hounded in the manner that is being done. Like the writer of this piece, I have advocated that the parties meet and dialogue in camera. The governments initial approach was hostile and this made any subsequent discussion difficult. This ought not to have been in the public arena. I have the same views when it comes to Sandals, Scotia Bank or any local business. If there is an issue, dialogue. Just don’t go in the public arena and make hostile remarks about these companies and then seek dialogue afterwards. It is not the way my friend….this is what I have been saying…this is what the writer suggests.

          • Do you know that the government tried on several occasions to engage the companies privately and they refused to be engaged? That is why the government came public with the matter. Both Digicel and Flow flatly refused to yield any their allocations, and this is how the issue got to this stage.

  8. You started out reasonable, however (and this is not political) if the former government gave those companies too much leverage, then the now government by virtue of their policies and plans for the little bit of Paradise deem it necessary to fix issues that appear to be lap sided and to this is OUR Inet (the people of A&B). WE cum first!

    • When you say “OUR” Inet, what do you mean? If we own something, then we should derive a benefit from it and those who are entrusted to manage it should be accountable to us. None of this applies in the case of APUA – or for that matter any of the organizations that are “owned” by the people. The only ones who benefit are the politicians who get free electricity, free water (when there is water) and free phone service. Further, they get to decide who gets employed, who gets fired and who gets the lucrative contracts. The management of APUA is only accountable to the politicians. We the owners never see any annual reports or details about APUA’s financial performance or plans. Only the politicians. All that we – as owners – get are high prices, poor service and the comfort of feeling that we own something. Any you say “OUR”? get real..

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  10. Melchisedec
    June 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm
    Lack of long term national vision.

    Out country is suffering because of a lack of planning and visioning.

    The 99 year leases….. Has it ever occurred to the planners that the country may need these lands or properties before 99 years expire.

    Leasing 100s of acres of land…….Has it occurred to the drafters that some or maybe all of these lands will be need for national development in the near future.

    Spectrum…… Surely it did not occur to the big brain people that in the future the spectrum would have been needed so they just sell it off.

    Now huge sums of public funds will have to be spent to acquire and compensate businesses for the blind big brainers.

    I say they should be taken before the court and pay for their stupidity Everytime one of these instances pop up, let them be accountable for their dunceness.

  11. There comes a time in every SOCIETY that what is considered RIGHT/LAWFUL NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED.

  12. Have we forgotten how FLOW manipulated the Barbados government to get control of both IT and Cable TV in the Eastern Caribbean and how DIGICEL benefited from a favorable deal by those who (wanted to) kill PCS? This issue of equitable Spectrum distribution is nothing new. FLOW and DIGI has not wanted discussion. They want to maintain their cushy deal in an environment where they can continue their crappy service.

  13. With all due respect Ives is a great guy, but there are times when government has to take action in the interest of its people. Speaking of hotels, could one justify a situation where properties such as Half Moon Bay and Halcyon go to economic waste in the interest of what he wants to term property rights? The only rights the developers had to these properties is to develop them for theirs and also the country’s interest. If they are not holding up the equation in a reasonable manner then the government has the right to acquisition as outlined in the law of the land. I can not sit here and defend companies that in one breath we say rape our country and when the PM wants to level the playing field we bow and say how great these companies are. Funny in Antigua we murder APUA but take some much poo from DIGI and FLOW.

  14. I really didn’t want to comment on this article as my friend Yves had in the past already been ad odd with the Minister of Information on the Telecom Bill. And he was proven to be so incorrect. Suggesting that government would be spying on us.Listening in on our phone calls. But I really thought as a IT professional Yves would educate us more about the spectrum and what it really is that the fight is all about. And why Digicel is seeing it fit to take the government to court. But he comes from a legal angle and he is not a legal luminary. And his reasoning is so flawed in my opinion. I will only address a few. He said Digicel has broken no law. Well the government never claimed that Digicel has broken any law. The government is continuous and therefore we should not look at which government did what. Well if one government did something wrong should another government continue that wrong and not try to make it right?. I that reasoning and that logic was right we should all still be slaves. It was for the very reason that this Gaston Brown told Sandals that the agreement they had with the UPP government was illegal. He didn’t blame Sandals he just told them we have to correct this. And we know the stands Sandals took. But in the end they had to abide by the law. Now we have a previous government made a bad deal with Cable and Wireless and Digicel. The PM said we need to correct this. Lets sit down and work this thing out. If there is no cooperation than the government has no choice but to highhandedly make the decisions it deems best in the interest of the industry. And again APUA is not a regulator. The minister in charge of APUA is. And it is ultimately the Cabinet that makes the decision. And the spectrum is not leased in perpetuity. It is something that is negotiated every so now and than. If in the near future another player is allowed to come on the market and need to be given some space, well things will have to be negotiated once again. That is the nature of the industry. Digicel is just taking bad advise in my opinion. They have 90 days to come to the table and negotiate in good faith a perfect union, and it is up to them. But they are now dealing with a no none sense straight talking PM. Who cannot be bribed with IPads and Laptops for his constituencies. We all by now know the UPP was inept in everything they did. Every deal was a steal as Lennox used to say. And for someone to run from working to government straight to working for the very same player in the industry as a top man doesn’t looks good. It smells indeed. Who the cap fits let them wear it. But some people love money more then country.

  15. If giving APUA more spectrum means more water for consumers, then they can have all the 850, 950 and 1050 spectrum for all I care. Truth be told, spectrum is only good as a resource for providing a telecommunications service. And as bad as our telecoms services are there is no comparison with water service (quantity and quality). And since APUA is the only company that can provide water to consumers, then they would do well to make that a priority. Instead they blame the drought; blame sargassum sea weed; blame the rain; blame APC; blame Digicel; blame, blame blame..In the meantime our Politicians get:
    Free electricity
    Free water
    Free Telephone service
    While tell us that APUA belongs to us. And the sad thing is: I hear so many people repeating the same nonsense. Only in Antigua!!

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