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Cable dispute continues

Monday March 19, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
Mark Brown has refuted claims the planned Manatua submarine cable won't result in lower prices. Mark Brown has refuted claims the planned Manatua submarine cable won't result in lower prices.

Telecommunications minister Mark Brown has hit back at claims by the Opposition that the planned Manatua submarine cable won’t necessarily result in lower prices for consumers and businesses.

Brown says the aim, right from the time the cable was first announced, has been that the price to consumers will decline over time as capacity increases.

“This has been the experience elsewhere in the world,” he said. “The experience elsewhere has also been that the quality and speed (of internet connections) is increased significantly.

“Continued submarine cable development worldwide indicates that despite advances made in satellite technology, submarine cable is still the preferred option for connectivity.”

Brown said cost modelling done before the Cook Islands government embarked on the Manatua cable project had shown the cost of capacity would definitely improve.

“Now that we have a more concrete idea of price, we will fine-tune our modelling. As an example, in Samoa, their cable went live on March 2 (and) people have doubled their capacity for less than previous prices.”

In CINews on March 10, Opposition deputy leader James Beer said the need for competition legislation to create a fairer and more competitive business environment in the Cook Islands had been among matters they had discussed with visiting New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and deputy prime minister Winston Peters recently.

“We said to them, ‘It’s great to have all this money given to us (for the cable), but how do you know that it’s going to be passed on to the consumers?’

“We all know that when there are technological advances, generally those efficiencies are passed on to the operator.

“But is the operator going to be able to pass it on to the consumer?”

Beer said the Opposition had discussed the same issue with Jacinda Ardern’s predecessor, Bill English.

“We said to him that although the $15 million pledge they made in relation to the fibre-optic cable was a generous pledge, we found that it wasn’t going to transcend to lower prices for consumers and businesses.

“The reason we said this is because there is no way in which we can actively create regulations that deal with competition in the Cook Islands.”