BVI News

BVI’s ‘unfavourable’ terrain makes internet more expensive, says telecoms providers

A section of the main island of Tortola.

Unfavourable terrain and the expensive cost of infrastructure have largely contributed to the cost of internet services in the territory, local telecommunications providers have said.

Marlon Solomon, Corporate Sales Manager of Cable and Wireless Ltd — the parent company of Flow — said the terrain in the BVI is vastly worse than other Caribbean islands as it relates to setting up internet infrastructure.

“If we were in a place like Caymans or a flatter type territory, we would be able to sever the community a lot better with less of an expenditure. Like if the entire territory was in Road Town, I don’t think we would have had a problem,” Soloman said.

“It’s a small place, but this territory requires a lot of infrastructural investment in order to get to some customers. Sadly, we have to recoup the kind of investment that we put in. I’m not trying to say that we are trying to put ourselves first. We are trying to do it as a joint effort where we help the community to rebuild itself,” he added.

“We are not trying to shy away from not serving the customers. But, at the same time, in order to successfully serve you, it will cost some money and as such, we price our products based on that cost,” he said.

Digicel’s position

CEO of Digicel, Kevin Gordon shared similar sentiments during a subsequent interview with BVI News. He said his company is well aware of what needs to be done and is currently working on rectifying those issues.

“We are always looking to improve the coverage and service in areas where service is either limited or nonexistent by setting up various cell sites in several areas,” Gordon said.

External factors influencing prices from Digicel

According to Gordon, these cell sites are extremely expensive to set up here in the BVI.

“Cell sites go for over $200,000 just to get implemented but that’s a cost that we bear . We understand the constraints of the area that we are working in, we have more hills here than in most islands. I have more cell sites on BVI than I have in Antigua put together and it’s necessary because of the kind of hills and the terrain and it brings some challenges with it,” the Digicel boss explained.

He further said: “It’s a lot more expensive to operate in the BVI than in most territories. For one of my cell sites in BVI, pay for five cell sites in Jamaica or five cell sites in Dominica or five cell sites in Antigua, it’s not the same cost structure and that you cannot change.”

“My rental cost here in the BVI is a lot higher than what we pay in all the other markets; not just for the operations here but also for the cell sites and those are cost that we have to bear up front.”

When BVI News contacted the territory’s third internet provider — CCT, the telecoms company’s CEO Averad Penn declined to comment.

Earlier this month Premier Andrew Fahie said his government will be holding an urgent meeting with local telecommunication providers to address the many issues plaguing the BVI including prices and quality of services.

Copyright 2019 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

66 Comments

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  1. Really? says:

    The terrain is the excuse? the BVI is more mountainous that the bigger islands? I suppose the USVI must be different….lol

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    • RT says:

      Anywhere digital is involved is suspecy

      • Marilyn says:

        PUT THAT COMPANY ON THE SPOT AND SEARCH OUT FOR A BETTER SERVICE WHY ONLY USE ONE COMPANY AND THEY ARE NOT GIVING YOU WHAT KIND OF SERVICE YOU NEED TO OPERATE EFFECIENTLY WITH THE OTHER CARIBBEAN ISLANDS. YOU ARE IN THE BETTER POSITION DON’T LET OR MAKE THEM SQUEESE YOU IN THINKING THAT YOU NEED THEM MORE THAN THEY NEED YOUR MONEY. WHAT KIND OF SERVICE IS SIR RICHARD BRANSON USING IN NECKER AND MOSQUITO ISLANDS. WHAT CARRIER IS HE USING FOR HIS TECH. SERVICES SUCH AS INTERNET, CELL SERVICES OPEN UP TO OTHER COMPETENTION WORK TOWARDS GETTING MORE FGOR YOUR MONEY. GREATER POWER IN NUMNERS.

    • Tolians stupid? says:

      These fu$&@ng people really feel we stupid buddy

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      • Rubber Duck says:

        These companies are exploitative thieves and this is non sense.

        What does internet cost in Switzerland, Finland, Norway?

        All countries with much tougher terrains ( and weather ) than BVI

        Take away their trade licenses.

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        • I.T guy* says:

          I am in no way satisfied with Internet Speed/cost ratio in the BVI, but what they are saying is common sense and your argument doesn’t suffice to prove any different. The huge countries you are referring to with vast landscapes to cover with connectivity usually have millions of subscribers who can generate billions in profits for companies who then utilise billion dollar technologies i.e Satellites in space to allocate connectivity.

          We have neither the population to produce revenues to justify an investment in technologies that distribute connectivity seamlessly, nor the terrain that makes launching 200k cell tower sites an effective cost to profit business model.

          Think logically! 200k to set up a site that covers you and your 4 neighbors who pay 120 a month for a service? You really cant see what theyre saying…or are you just as fed up as I am, minus an ability to reason and a will to concede to fact?

          • MS says:

            Stop complaining here in the USA a larger Tech. country still have problems through well know Cable Stations. The BVI far better NOW with wired Tech. Try and look into contacting Mr. clyde Lettsome for consultation as to what is needed to advance the Territory in the technology arena. You are getting what you pay for – Yes consult – consult Mr. Clyde Lettome – LOOK HIM UP – Stop pushing your own people away who have the knowledge and you continue going out of the BVI and Territory for help and help is just a click away. Take the plunge and make those necessary contacts to build up the region.

          • Rubber Duck says:

            Which company are you from?

            Why won’t Flow bring the fiber optic cable to Carrot Bay when they are falling over themselves to take it up to Belmont?

            Why doesnt the Premier do something about his local constituents being denied equivalent services to expats and visitors.

            Take away their trade license.

          • Rubber Duck says:

            Btw “ it guy”

            Tortola population density 213 people per sq kilometer

            Finland 18 people per sq kilometre

            Switzerland 214 people per sq kilometer

            Norway 15 people per sq kilometre

            Get some facts before you defend the robbers.

          • Rubber Duck says:

            The country of Andorra , population 76,000 located in the Pyrenees mountains with a population density of 164 people per square kilometre has one of the best internet systems in the world , faster than its neighbors France and Spain.

            They are just telling you lies.

            And you just suck it up.

          • I.T guy* says:

            I have no inside information for any ISP in the BVI, cant answer any questions as to their prioritisation of fiber optic sites, i do however recognise that it would behove them as a company to cover as much of the island with fibre as possible as it makes no business sense to uplink expats first/only as you stated.

            I do however believe in research before posting and i do apologise for not having upfront knowledge of Internet access in the countries you spoke of. A casual look however revealed your figures to be nothing more than fluff…Finland for instance is described as mostly flat land, with more than 70% of it covered by thick forest. So although they only have 18 person per sq km, I would use my IT brain to imagine they could cover about 1/5 of the 5 plus Million population with the towers we have in the BVI…so that’s 1 million plus people covered for the same cost it takes an ISP to cover our 30 000….you get how that works Genius?

            P.S. although i will research further, i wont for the purpose of answering your poorly produced argument. You’ve done nothing to discredit what Ive posited. You’ve listed countries with MILLIONS of people without thought of how the TERRAIN affects the process by which ISPs distribute connectivity, or the potential for recouping the investment servicing MILLIONS of subscribers!

          • Hmmm says:

            “Internet Speed in Andorra increased to 13833.38 KBps in the first quarter of 2017 from 12755.81 KBps in the fourth quarter of 2016. Internet Speed in Andorra averaged 6361.50 KBps from 2007 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 14355.81 KBps in the first quarter of 2016 and a record low of 1473.56 KBps in the first quarter of 2008.”

            Nothing in Andorra eclipses service we have here….Its right on par with our experience, the only thing that could be argued is price…Disingenuous much?

      • Yes were stupid says:

        imagine if we try to live without internet for at least a month…wonder what would happen.

    • Stop it says:

      This has been a point for very long time. If the gov isn’t willing to put money into improving the infuratructire which is done in most Jurisdictions like the UK, USA etc then nothing will change. Remember operators come and go equipment , line /cables get implemented and installed. This essentially stays in the place. We have also put ourselves in this situation by pricing ourselves out of the market because of greed.
      After all companies go into business to make a profit.

  2. E scott says:

    Are we going to hear from cline on this subject that he’s being paid over $98,000 to provide consultancy ? And I don’t mean one of his normal rants that vilifies somebody to stir up trouble . I would like fact figures and strategy please to get my tax value for money . Alternatively give the $98,000 and the next $98,000 for the next six months that he’s going to get to the cell company towards infrastructure.

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  3. E scott says:

    I’ll start you off ch***y cline so you can start to google to make you look intelligent. Loon project !!!!

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  4. island man says:

    east end is populated and on the flatter part we are still suffering. you are talking nonsence.

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  5. Hmmm says:

    Sir with all due respect Dominica have the far worst terrain in all the caribbean and the island is way bigger than the bvi. so please stop making unuseful excuses.

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  6. Mr Shovels says:

    Exactly why does one cell site in the BVI cost 5X as much as the other islands???

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    • Offline says:

      Read what the Digicel man says: his rent costs more, and no doubt the equipment costs more, everything costs more. It’s not the terrain it’s the environment in the BVI greedy people wanting their $$$$ out of everything

  7. true says:

    flatter than Anegada…..

  8. Roxy says:

    This is pure bull crap. Dominica’s terrain is far worse than Tortola’s and they get first class internet service.

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  9. bull junks says:

    B schitt!….St.lucia and dominica have more hills and they dont have a problem

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  10. strupes says:

    The BVI is the only place where those telecom companies are making USD currency so don’t mind them with their lies.THEY RIPPING US OFF

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  11. L says:

    Now they blaming the terrain? The Caribbean is full of hilly terrain, still we are the most expensive. Why?

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  12. Wellsaw says:

    Total nonsense greed and the US dollar and taking revenue and profit made here and putting in other islands is the reason why not the terrain.

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  13. 100 %%% says:

    FALSE BS

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  14. Observant says:

    Rubbish excuses. There are many places “worse” than BVI with great internet service. Next topic please.

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  15. Yea Right says:

    My brother in St. Thomas gets way faster internet for way less. St. Thomas has the same type terrain. Come again. We learned long ago that Cable and Wireless and Digicel charges for internet base on the perceive income/wealth of the people. Stop making excuses. We all need to go CCT even if its slow and always buffering.

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    • @ Yea Right says:

      The pricing philosophy of these Telcos operating in the Territory is to charge WHATEVER the market can bear. So,’Yea Right’,you are right.

      The fact is there is no “effective” competition
      between local telephone companies, which would help to drive down prices.

      There is no real supervision of the industry as a whole, and ministers and their advisers continue to espouse edicts as if magically they would result in change, or per chance they might co-incide with already well laid plans of the service providers.

      How come he conveniently ignores the superlative advantages our geography and topography poses in
      offering coverage from elevated sites to yachting
      traffic cruising our waters, where we accomodate
      close to 400k tourists per year.

      What have these much talked about IXPs(Internet Exchange Points) we went to great lengths to get…done for us?

      What has the much talked about Number Portability brought us except a new vocabulary?

      We need urgent and professional evaluation of the industry, with the imperative to seize commercial opportunities and expand the quality and capacities of communication technologies.

      Fintech is a rapidly expanding sector, upon which we are entirely reliant as an Offshore Financial Center,…. emerging 3D and IoT will be critical in terms of adding “substance” and complimentarity to corporate product and deemed source of origin..

      Pricing, Capacity, Quality of Service and the ability to remain competitive is fundamental and we must no longer be hoodwinked.

  16. ThinkTank says:

    Utter nonsense they’re speaking, for a landline or wired internet terrain is not an issue. There are other islands just as mountainous and still cheaper.

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  17. 2 Grand says:

    Really? Please stop taking us for illiterate fools . You’re ripping us off . It’s a sin thou shall not steal crap services for top dollar.. the TRC is a waste shut it down. The scales are unbalanced so justice has failed. The laws of men are inferior to those of the most high.

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  18. Retired says:

    Total BS. The terrain of the BVI is not the problem. The problem is the USD currency in the hands of greedy telecom companies.

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  19. Bruce says:

    So is the government going to do something about this situation?

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  20. CW says:

    Wait until StarLink is released in a few years. High speed internet anywhere in the world beamed down from the sky just like satellite phones. That will force cell providers and ISPs to stop playing games.

  21. lMAO says:

    What!? BullSh$T.. Dominica have way bigger terrain than BVi and that’s facts! And they have way better service. Is best we have the same as STTjust bring AT&T they find a way.

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    • BJD says:

      The mountains on their own aren’t enough to consider. Their location and existing infrastructure, set up costs, and locations in relation to the populated areas are also critical.

      Cell sites send and receive signals via radio frequencies in the higher bands and therefore propagation infrastructure is less forgiving than other like communication systems.

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  22. TurtleDove says:

    Terrain is certainly a factor is cell service. A study needs to be done to determine the best places to place cell towers.

    This is a matter of economic security as well as living in the world TODAY. That being said government should be involved giving incentives and or money to have this done. In return they should also make sure people are getting adequate service at an affordable and fair price. Much better project that airplane…

    The truth lies somewhere in the middle of what these gentlemen are saying.

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    • Lodger says:

      Local landowners charge the companies exhorbitant rents, thus putting up the cost of service. Service on land lines should not be affected by terrain much. Why dont Flow tell us how far they have got with repairing the landline infrastructure. Problem is everyone wants internet on their cell phones.

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  23. soso says:

    Nonsense, pure b**ls**t, terrain has nothing to do with t, you guys just think that bvi people are fools and you all can just walk over us, look at the internet speed in the other Caribbean countries or down island compare to ours,, they have triple times the speed and for a fraction of what we are paying here.

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  24. !!!! says:

    So places like Colorado and the Alps in Europe must have no service whatsoever

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  25. A Cyber Tech says says:

    These companies are confusing coverage with bandwidth and consistent fast internet service. After that expensive cell site has been installed thats it for the mountain excuse. The intermittent crap we are paying top USD$ for is NOT INDUSTRY STANDARD. I get faster free internet in any decent airport than in the BVI. TRC i
    needs a qualified Telecom Law trained CEO to make the needed adjustments to the Telecom Act. Current CEO is just there so he can get 1st class travel all over the place for no good reason.

  26. shannocks says:

    We need a 4th company in here….COME ON AT&T

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    • sam says:

      problem is there are not sufficient customers to warrant the cost of infrastructure, period. the hills of Tortola Increase the cost of the infrasturcture thus the cost per customer is increased. is simple maths , cost to install + profit / number of customers. If you bring in another company the market share of customers per company in decrease thus the cost per customer increases.

      Allowing competion to regulate the market only works with lager populations. in a small population the best way is to have government owned infrastructure that is regulated then tenured out to telecoms providers to bid on a say five year cycle to provide the service. they get a guaranteed profit but must hit regulated targets of service quality and coverage.

  27. Anonymous says:

    worse than New York City’s skyscrapers?

  28. Hmmmm says:

    Pure Excuses. TRC Need a change up in Management for allowing these people to run their own show.

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  29. Concerned Anegadian says:

    Anegada should not be a problem when it comes to putting your down Cells because of the fact of it being flat but I am sure they pay the same high price.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Umm to be nice to you providers eh, ok it’s expensive to have the service. Does it have to be so crappy tho? Reliable service is all we need, at a cheaper cost is what we would like.

  31. Well says:

    It would make more sense financially for them to be here if we had a bigger population but I guess we are too bigoted to let that happen

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    • sam says:

      @well makes me laugh and also cry at the stupid comments made on here all shouting they are being ripped of and can not understand the maths of population. I wonder if the loon project can come here ?

    • @well says:

      So does your ‘immigration agenda comment’ also explain why we also have such crappy service? Take it to another blog please.

  32. Aren't says:

    all the other Caribbean islands hilly and mountainous as well?

    Then why are their rates so much less expensive than Tortola’s?

    The excessive cost is due exclusively to no price regulation, which allows the company policy makers to charge customers exorbitant prices for inferior service and products, because they are not accountable to government regulatory price control measures.

    They are the greed warriors. They take as much money from the public as they can possibly take.

    That is their method and approach to business in the territory.

    The people of this territory need firm consumer protection legislation yesterday. Protectioon that will regulate and keep prices reasonable and affordable for all, while ensuring that the investor and business person receives his/her due amount.

    But sucking the poor, minimum wager and middle to average earner blood is not good moral business practice.

    Unfortunately, no amount of blogging will lower the prices for food, which increases every single week at the supermarket, electricity, water, transportation, medicine, medical interventions and other basic nessicities.

    It will take bold fearless leaders who are not in the pockets of business to bring about relief the entire population needs.

    Hopefully the next election will do just that, or maybe the VIP and or NDP will wake up and do what is right by the people and not just a few of them.

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  33. Anonymous says:

    Foolishness.

  34. Mr. Hodge says:

    What’s that I smell? Yup smells like BS to me! With the exception of Barbados, most Caribbean island are similar in terrain so throw that argument out. The TRC has no teeth or we wouldn’t be paying the exorbitant fees that we do for service. Unlimited service is very much limited. If your pricing is commensurate with your expense and this is long term, will the price come down after you have recouped your capital expenditures or will we continue to be shafted?
    …Asking for a friend

  35. JayEm says:

    Dis the most assiousness I hear for the week.

  36. Done says:

    I am so glad that I am going to leave this island and don’t have to worry about this kind of “issues” any longer. I am off to a different part of the Caribbean where investors are welcome, the infrastructure is actually functioning and you’re not just seen as a cash cow.

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  37. Real Talk says:

    The BVI is paying the salaries of all the CEOs of these companies, so they are just trying to justify the poorest internet quality and highest costs in the world.

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  38. Hills says:

    Internet is more expensive in flat Cayman than in mountainous BVI because Cayman has a higher GDP. Construction labor costs are higher in Cayman for this same reason. So this is not about hilly terrain. This is about basic business economics.

    If we compare BVI with Antigua, Jamaica and Dominica we get a similar situation. That is, there is higher labor cost to the BVI providers, but the providers in turn charge BVI more because of the higher GDP.

    CCT is the smartest of the bunch because they knew they would be hammered if they tried to justify exorbitant prices and poor service with craziness about hilly terrain.

  39. Do Not Wait !!! says:

    Government needs to bring in (outside)consultants now !!! and build the technological backbone for the territory.
    Once completed, charge these local ISP clowns to use it. By that time there will be more local start up companies doing what they are “trying to do”.

    — V.I. NICE !!!

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