Flow president Michele English spent two days in a whirlwind of meetings with Cayman Islands government ministers and regulators this week.
She said she expects final approval from Cayman’s telecom regulators “in the short term” of Cable & Wireless’s recent $5.3 billion acquisition by Liberty Global.
Cayman’s Information and Communications Technology Authority, along with regulators in the dozens of other markets C&W does business in, have to approve the acquisition if it is to go ahead. There have been several stumbling blocks, including accusations that some Flow executives in Cayman have not had proper work permits to be in the islands.
“There have been some issues raised around immigration,” Ms. English said during a meeting with reporters Tuesday without giving specifics. But, she said, “I don’t think there are any underlying issues with the acquisition.”
She said she met with government ministers Monday to discuss concerns, including complaints about Internet speeds that were discussed at the Legislative Assembly last year. She also met with regulators Tuesday morning to address more technical issues with the company’s infrastructure, staffing and the acquisition.
“We’re all committed to moving this forward,” she said, adding that she expects “to see a conclusion in the short term.”
ICTA managing director Alee Fa’amoe declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations over the Liberty Global-Cable & Wireless acquisition.
Ms. English said government ministers brought up complaints over Internet speeds with her during their meeting. She said the company has been working to improve its infrastructure for the fixed network, including storing local versions of Netflix and Google on island to reduce the burden on undersea cables that connect Cayman to the broader Internet.
“We can’t guarantee you a speed to Web pages,” she said. “When you get onto the Internet, that’s that whole different beast.”
Ms. English said Flow had invested $30 million in network infrastructure over the past two years.
“Telecommunications infrastructure is important to growth and economic development,” she said. Cayman’s main industries, financial services and tourism, both rely on having good connections to the outside world.
She said the new acquisition by Liberty Global gives Flow more buying power to be able to invest in Cayman’s network and the undersea cables necessary to connect off island.
She said Flow plans to roll out more fiber, and recently upgraded the off-island connections.
“Reliability is critical,” Ms. English said, because governments, businesses and hospitals rely on the network.
Additionally, she said, the company has addressed the problems with 911 that resulted in customers being unable to reach the emergency number.
Flow’s head of marketing in Cayman, Julie Hutton, said “There are now redundancies in place.”
Ms. English added that discussions over the 911 system are ongoing with ICTA, but some of the equipment has been moved on island.
The license review was sparked by Liberty Global’s US$5.3 billion acquisition of Cable & Wireless, completed in May. U.S. billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global operates in Europe under several brands, including Virgin Media.
Liberty Global also operates in Latin and South America, running an undersea fiber network connecting more than 30 markets and offering consumer and business communications services in Puerto Rico and Chile.
Ms. English said the new ownership will give Flow customers better access to on-demand content and make big investments less expensive for the company, meaning Flow will be able to spend more on infrastructure upgrades in Cayman.