Telecom prices come under attack

Tuesday December 10, 2013 Written by Ben Chapman-Smith Published in Technology

Broadband prices in the Cook Islands are among the highest in the Pacific region when ranked in real dollar terms, says the owner of a local computer business.

A recent peer review of the Cook Islands highlighted “the high cost of telecommunications” as being a major issue in the country. Telecom Cook Islands responded with a report showing its plans are generally the most affordable when ranked against countries like Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.

Mike Pynenburg, director of The Computer Man, has slammed Telecom for “once again trotting out its report that purports to show the Cook Islands has ‘the most affordable’ broadband and telephone services in the region”.

Telecom’s report is based on gross domestic product (GDP) and not the actual dollar costs per megabyte (MB), Pynenburg said.

“The Cook Islands has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the region and when compared to countries like PNG, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu we have double, even triple, the rate of some of our neighbours.”

Cook Islands price plans may be more affordable but they are definitely not cheaper, he said.

“When viewed in real cold hard cash terms then we are just simply more expensive than our neighbours, and not just by a little bit either!”

Pynenburg points to Tonga’s cheapest home plan, which offers five gigabytes (GB) of data for NZ$39 a month.

He said the equivalent Telecom Cook Islands plan costs NZ$49 for three GB of data; the other two GB of data would cost another $80 based on an ‘excess’ rate of 4 cents a MB.

In Fiji and Samoa, unlimited data plans start from just $25 per month, Pynenburg said.

He points out similar price differences between the Cook Islands’ business plans and those in other Pacific countries.

Telecom sales and marketing manager Damien Beddoes said last week that the peer review findings were based on people’s “perceptions and assumptions”, not hard evidence.

“We’re very aware that consumers compare our Cook Islands rates to New Zealand, Australia and the US. We have to balance the true cost of delivering the service from international providers across our small population.”

Pynenburg has hit out at those comments.

“Mr Beddoes suggests we should not compare the cost of telecommunications with NZ, Australia and the US so I didn’t. I compared it with our Pacific neighbours. We are not (cheaper), and that is based on ‘hard evidence’ not ‘assumptions’.”

Pynenburg argues Cook Islands policy makers should take notice of the peer review’s findings.

“When the Peer Review report says the high costs are ‘closely related to government’s guaranteeing a monopoly to the service provider’, then we all need to take notice and listen.” he said.

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