TelEm Group CEO cautions against “Free Wi-Fi” idea for St. Maarten

Regional telecommunication Ministers and other telecommunication officials, during the recently concluded CANTO Conference in the Dominican Republic, where the idea of offering free wi-fi to residents and visitors to St. Maarten was discussed by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT), Melissa Arrindell-Doncher.


Pond  Island –  TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Kendall Dupersoy, is advising “caution” to an idea coming out of a recently concluded telecommunication conference in the Dominican Republic, that St. Maarten can enhance its telecommunication services to residents and visitors by offering free Wi-Fi throughout the island.

The idea was put forward by Minister of TEATT, Melissa Arrindell-Doncher during the recently ended 33rd annual Conference and Trade Exhibition of CANTO, in the Dominican Republic, and repeated in at least one online media outlet this week.

“I am all for making telecommunication services affordable for TelEm Group customers, however I cannot see how we can benefit by offering free wi-fi “spots” to the millions of visitors who come to the island each year, who are currently paying for this service,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

He said when the matter was discussed during a meeting with a well-known international vendor who can provide the infrastructure needed, he immediately expressed his concerns. He further offered to meet with the Minister when both returned home, to find ways of working together to make costs affordable without affecting the company’s bottom line.

Mr. Dupersoy says he is ready to use TelEm Group resources and in-house expertise to come up with a workable and successful project that is mutually beneficial to everyone and serves the purpose of the tourist industry, the Minister, the community and also TelEm Group.

In his view, government should not continue to give away services for free that are still being charged for in other countries and by other carriers, since TelEm Group has the very large expense of bringing internet to the island and must be able to monetize this while providing cost effective service to the community, business and visitors to the island.

“I feel it is important to sound a note of caution because, at CANTO, the idea of free Wi-Fi on St. Maarten was given only as exploratory talk, but now that I am back on St. Maarten, it appears that this is more than just exploratory talk,” continued Mr. Dupersoy.

“We are currently providing free internet to schools and institutions and are now planning a major Fibre To The Home (FTTH) island-wide roll out  that will also include a major increase in Bandwidth to these educational and community organizations. The plan also incorporates lowering prices to customers, however this can all be affected and may not be possible, if tourists and visitors generally can get wi-fi services for free, that they were previously paying for,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

The TelEm Group CEO explained that Telecommunication carriers like TelEm are losing revenues every day from a decrease in fixed voice and roaming customers because of free services such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Snap Chat, etc.

“If data revenues are also now put at risk by giving away data for free, then any hope of keeping our costs to customers low, offering affordable rates and continuing with programs such as free fiber telecommunication services for schools and organizations, goes out the door,” said the CEO.

He said he will be seeking a meeting with the Minister TEATT to further discuss the matter and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to identifying and providing the very best telecommunication services of St. Maarten and enhancing telecommunication services for residents and visitors to the island alike.