Falklands : Falklands Public Meeting 27 April 2010 (Part 1)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 08.05.2010 (Article Archived on 22.05.2010)
A lengthy 45 minute session on telecommunications took place during the public meeting held on Tuesday, 27 April 2010.
PUBLIC MEETING 27 APRIL 2010
TRANSCRIPT Ė TELECOMS PART 1
By J. Brock (FINN)
A lengthy 45 minute session on telecommunications took place during the public meeting held on Tuesday, 27 April 2010. It began with a question by Nicole Buxton as outlined in part 1 of the report. Dick Sawle MLA began the session with saying that he has received over 800 complaints and that he would be satisfied with progress on the matter when he stops getting complaints via e-mail. Here is some of the commentary resulting from the question.
LC: I have reached the point now where I am not prepared to put up with the service any longer. I have spoken to Dick about this and Nikki provides our support for the office as she does for many other businesses. But it is quite critical and there are a number of businesses Ė I canít speak for individuals who may use Cable & Wireless system at home Ė but for those businesses who are just appalled - they are frustrated beyond belief of the non-deliverability of the Cable & Wireless system and itís within our remit to step out of the frame of Cable & Wireless and do something unilateral and I think we have reached that point now so in terms of saying Ė and I accept your point entirely, Roger, that the legislation doesnít provide for people to move outside of the system but we are left with no choice now Ė absolutely no choice at all. Given that everything is drifting and I understand why legislation drifts and there are all sorts of other agendas and priorities but a significant number of folks in the business sector have absolutely had enough. Itís just reached the point of no return.
JC: Itís worth pointing out itís not just the business sector. We are running up against it in education where we would like to do a lot more in the way of distance learning and expanding all manner of things have to do which are stymied by this. But I think in the case of any monopoly, be it Cable & Wireless or Stanley Services, if they are not providing what the customer requires then there should be provision for the customer to go outside.
DC: The ... at the moment is on unilateral action and Iím afraid thatís the way a lot of folks are going to go and then one would look for the Government not to prosecute because the monopoly provider is unable to provide the service that certainly businesses Ė I come from a business point of view Ė need to move forward today. I suspect the same could be said for a lot of folks that sit at home and use it there. I donít (use it at home).
RE: Closer to home, of course, the internet, what have you, that I get a lot of complaints about Ė this last month Cable & Wireless actually admitted that their figures are wrong and they sent a letter around to all users which was quite a difficult letter to actually understand apart from anything else. But closer to home, of course, itís the telephone system and the Camp Telephone system which Government is paying for Ė a huge amount of money Ė has yet to be accepted and that is going to be the next milestone in it as to how we accept it or who accepts it and at what level they accept the telephone system that has been put in or what further work must be done by the provider Ė Cable & Wireless Ė to upgrade it so that it is a satisfactory system because Government has put in a huge amount of money for the Camp Telephone system and thatís the next real trying point to see what happens when we accept that telephone system.
(Unknown): If it doesnít work, you wonít accept it, will you?
DS: The other thing to remember as well Ė back to Lewisí point here, is that any agreement works two ways as you know. The agreement is between two parties. The Telecommunications Ordinance 1988 Section 49 does say very clearly that there are certain conditions that might exist that Cable & Wireless are in breach of their obligations. So the agreement is not just ďhave a monopoly and go and play with it,Ē the agreement was ďhave a monopoly and provide us with a service.Ē And I think itís very important that all of us as Members make sure that that is pushed. Now I do detect a willingness from Cable & Wireless to move in the right direction. I think that also I would be right in saying that people feel that move is not fast enough. So we will try and speed things up as much as we possibly can. But I hear your frustration. I also heard from the Chamber last week about e-mails that are going missing. The fact that e-mails are such an important took for communications these days to have them just suddenly disappear into the ether for apparently no reason at all, is quite simply not acceptable and something has to happen to make it work better.
R. Spink: Even when they just disappear, itís the fact that when there is a problem with that happening, some people were informed and others werenít and it isnít until you get around the table and say that e-mails were received two or three days late that everybody realises we are all having the same problem and having people who are potentially customers of the Islands not being able to get in contact with you and you donít know that thereís an issue. You are not being kept informed.
DS: I assume that is only e-mails that are being hosted at Horizon.co.fk Is that correct? I presume the other ones are all OK.
BL: I presume there are problems with Google mail at the moment?
NB: During what is known as service attacks nothing came in Ė outside Ė inside Ė nothing. And where are those e-mails?
DS: I am not your service provider Ė I see your angry face.
NB: It was rhetorical.
DS: itís bad enough being half way there
MF: What assurances can we have that these regulations that are going to take another 6 months to put in place are actually going to deal with these issues?
DS: Right now I canít give that assurance because I donít know what the regulations are.
MF: Doesnít it deal with attitude problems? They are not going to deal with missing e-mails and I have my doubts as to whether they are going to deal with the internet issue.
DS: They could do, Mike. There are various things that are open to you, I mean, if you say that one of the performance level I require is that no e-mails get lost Ė just to pick an example out of thin air Ė if an e-mail gets lost then there is a financial penalty of £x for lost e-mails so there you are Ė thereís a regulation.
FINN: If that happened Ė by golly Iíd be a rich woman.
DS: You are asking me to think on my feet about regulations which are complicated in any situation.
MF: In the end some level of competition is the only thing thatís going to resolve this. And the self provision facility is going to provide some competition to make Cable & Wireless sharpen up their act and also deal with customer issues as well because far too often the first reaction is that they donít know and itís not their fault and it is on the customerís end or whatever.
BL: I think there are two things. One is the quality of the service and the other is if you provide your own you have a legal problem. You are outside the current law. Perhaps the Attorney General would like to confirm that. And short of mass disobedience of the present law there isnít a lot we can do about it.
SL: There are only 8 places in the prison.
GS: Iím sorry. I have been very, very quiet about this and I will go back to what I said in my election preamble. I am an employee of the Company and I am keeping out of Telecoms completely even though it frustrates me. I canít as an employee be seen to use my position to ether defend the Company or use the knowledge I have to undermine it. So itís better I keep right out of it.
BL: I am sure we all understand that, Gavin.
GS: I will say that Bill and I have been quite regular correspondents on the telephone.
DS: The point that Bill makes is the most pertinent one. Because we canít continue to function on the basis of irregularity and some days the service works and some days it doesnít so there is disobedience and it is going to happen simply because the service cannot be provided. It cannot be guaranteed in any manner, shape or form and I think those that exercise disobedience will look to the Government not to prosecute because they are left with no other option.
BL: I will go ahead and say - go for it -the sooner the better.
JC: I should say that given the very proper separation of the Judiciary and the Legislature. it would not be our decision.
BL: The solution might be to have the court so full of cases for the breach of the Telecommunications Ordinance that everything else comes to a shuddering halt.
R. Spink: Thatís where civil disobedience comes into play, isnít it?
DS: It could be seen as a fund raising measure by FIG.
BL: Any more comments on our Ďfriendsí?
GR: Can I just say where I am with Cable & Wireless? I have always been a supporter of Cable & Wireless because they do employ and train a lot of local people. And they share with me a significant number of their customers, so I have always had a fair amount of sympathy for them. I have said quite a number of times that where Cable & Wireless lost me was with their broadband packages. I have never been a user of Skype or anything like that because I see those as parasitic to the system that Cable & Wireless provide and none of these other organisations are going to come around and repair your telephone. So I am not a goody two shoes by any means but I effectively steer clear of cheating the system. But the broadband packages put you under pressure for the latest thing so I originally went for the Bronze Package on £33.00 a month and the first bill came in and it was a staggering amount of money. I went massively over the 300 mega-bite allowance so very quickly we saved money by moving to silver and that was not adequate either. So we now begrudgingly Ė I just donít get to see the Cable & Wireless bill these days Ė I totally regret the £120.00 a month on the gold package and you can still go over and itís just to me completely ludicrous. So I think there are going to be two face-book accounts closing next month when I cancel my subscription because itís too much money for something when times are a little bit tough, I really canít justify. I am just a private user. I donít have a business thatís trying to use the system and I donít live in the Camp. There are other issues. In Stanley the telephone works pretty well but the internet is far too expensive. I think for £120.00 a year, maybe but £120.00 a month is ridiculous.
BL: When we compare it with things that are available elsewhere in the world you get the equivalent of the gold package for about £15.00 a month and that puts it in prospective. I understand what Glen says but itís a Company I would really like to get my knife into. Local people do their best to get a lousy system to work and when you talk to the people who have to come around and fix the system, they are always very, very helpful. Itís the Company policy that we should be going for.
EE: I was the Customer Service Manager for Cable & Wireless for a few years and actually wrote the charter which is currently still in use. Sitting where I am today, I actually think that itís the customer charter that needs to be looked at because telecoms has changed since 2000 and we need to bring that up to date and make things more responsive. I think thatís an area that Cable & Wireless needs to look at and improve their response times and compensation packages when things do go wrong.
DS: My point is that is the equivalent of Cable & Wireless setting its own regulations. That charter is something that should be agreed between the user customers and the Company. Itís not something the Company should just produce.
EE: Unfortunately thatís how it was done.
DS Arguably thatís perhaps why we have at least part of the mess that weíve got at the moment.
EE: Which is why I think that is the area theyíve got to be looking at today.
Gary Clement: If someone is sitting at home with their computer, is there no way that anybody look at it and say this has used so many mega-bites this month?
BL: Yes there is. There are some programmes you can download. Iíve got one thatís called ďNet Limited IIĒ and that actually gives you a read-out of what you use on an hourly and daily basis.
Sharon Zuvic: They donít believe it when you show them your data.
BL: Of course they donít. They believe their own.
Sharon Zuvic: They said if they continued to monitor our data they would charge us for it.
DS: They would charge for using a programme?
Sharon Zuvic: No Ė for them to monitor our usage.
NB: What it I said to one of my customers that they had to pay £30.00 extra just for me to prove I was actually there doing the work. How ridiculous is that?
Note: (FINN has copies of e-mails from C&W stating that they would charge for monitoring.)
Gary Clement: Can you look at a computer and say how much?
NB: Absolutely and we are actually looking at two customer computers and doing that at the moment. I am hopefully going to be speaking to the gentleman to your right very soon (David Pickup) about this because I think there should be some recourse for the customer that can prove they havenít done what the usage statistics say. We can verifiably prove it that there should be some recourse to say we are not going to pay. This is not valid. And it is ironic is a conversation I had with Cable & Wireless two days before subsequently the usage monitor stopped working for everybody. There is something that I think is fundamentally wrong with those statistics.
DS: I donít want to put words in the AGís mouth but I know that David has looked at a case previously with a view to try and prove or disprove the whole metering aspect of Cable & Wirelessí packages. The results of that were fairly inconclusive. I think I would argue there were points raised that were critical of the system but there was no fault found with the system itself. I am sure he would be sympathetic to anything that would shed new evidence that would require another look at it. But Iím really talking out of turn. I am happy to suggest that things be looked at if it could shed any light on things and improve the situation.
Hamish Wyleyís remarks about metering phone calls will be in part 2.
(100X Transcription Service)