Chairman & CEO of Cable Bahamas Ltd and Columbus Communications Ltd Brendan Paddick spoke to the Rotary Club of Freeport April 20, sharing the companies' past successes and plans for the future in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region.


Local/National News

Cable Bahamas to build new facility in Freeport

By LISA S. KING, FN Asst. Editor,

Customers of Cable Bahamas on Grand Bahama can expect an even greater improvement in quality service from that company, as plans are under way to construct a new facility in Freeport within the next 14 months.

Brendan J. Paddick, president and CEO of Columbus Communications Inc., which owns 30 percent of Cable Bahamas' common shares, said construction of the new facility is expected to begin in June, and a decision will be made on the best of three potential locations next month.

Making the announcement to the Rotary Club of Freeport during their weekly meeting yesterday, Mr. Paddick said the new office will be a smaller version of the one in New Providence. It will include a customer service experience similar to the one they have in the Mall at Marathon, where customers can view a digital home theatre, its performance with HDTV, high speed terminals with access to the internet and in the not to distance future, voice products.

"We want a prominent location that will be easy for customers to get to and that will hopefully improve their whole overall action with the company because the current facilities are too small," Mr. Paddick said. "There are situations when payment times are too busy and customers are not allowed to actually try any of our products. This is very important for us, especially as we roll out our new digital higher speed internet."

Mr. Paddick said the company has experienced a major upgrade since its move to establish a $6 million digital television service. He added that they also built two fibre networks in Grand Bahama over to Boca Raton, Florida that now go into Miami. The $31 million project runs from the Port area facility.

"The take up has been nothing short of phenomenal," he said. "Since the end of October/November we now have over 11,000 set top boxes deployed to 9,000 customers, so that is already a 15 percent penetration rate."

Ever since its inception in 2000, Mr. Paddick said the Coralwave internet service provided by Cable Bahamas has been going strong with over 31,000 customers on-line. He said continued growth is expected by the company in that area.

The reason for this success, he said, is the creation and development of Caribbean Crossings Ltd., their subsea network that links the islands of The Bahamas with cable to areas in Boca Raton and Miami, Florida.

When Cable Bahamas was started in 1994, he said the commitment was to invest $20 million in The Bahamas to build a cable TV system and now, as of 2005, the company has invested over $200 million.

Mr. Paddick revealed that Cable Bahamas is working with Telecom Italia, which is a major partner with a Cuban government-owned telephone company. The plan is to build a fibre optic network to Cuba in anticipation of economic and political freedom coming to that country in the future.

"We think The Bahamas is strategically positioned to take advantage of all the commerce that will develop when it (Cuba) opens up," he said. "That is one of the initiatives we have been working on now for about a year and one that we have to get an answer on or they will look elsewhere and that will be a shame."

Mr. Paddick noted that his company had applied to NEC in May of last year to land a fibre optic network from Havana, Cuba to The Bahamas. He said they were very successful in getting video, internet and telecom licences and were given permission to run a second network over to Florida. However, it has been the speed at which Bahamian government officials take to deal with the various instances that has him concerned.

"It is not about being turned down, it is about not having decisions made quick enough," he said. "This is sad because they (potential partnering companies) start to look for other alternatives that may not be in The Bahamas."

He said Telecom Italia is willing to place fibre facilities here, but there has been no word from government on the matter as yet.

Columbus Communi-cations is the controlling shareholder of Cable Bahamas by virtue of the articles of the company. It is the largest operator of the company which enables it (Cable Bahamas) to take advantage of Columbus' size and purchasing power.

Within the last nine months, Columbus Communications has made major acquisitions in a strategic move to tap into growing demand in the Caribbean and Latin America market.

Columbus Communi-cations holds controlling interests in a number of telecommunication and broadband providers in the Caribbean. These include: Cable Bahamas Ltd. â¿¢ which provides cable television and high speed broadband services in The Bahamas; Caribbean Cros-sings â¿¢ a Cable Bahamas subsidiary which operates a 1,000-kilometre sub-sea fibre optic cable system linking the Bahamas and the United States; Merit Communi-cations Ltd. â¿¢ a facilities-based broadband data communications provider in Jamaica; FibraLink Jamaica - which is currently constructing a sub-sea fibre optic cable network connecting Jamaica to the United States, and; Cable Company of Trinidad and Tobago â¿¢ which provides cable television and broadband access services in Trinidad and Tobago.

NEW FACILITY â¿¢ Brendan J. Paddick, president and CEO of Columbus Communications Inc. was a guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Freeport weekly meeting yesterday at the Ruby Swiss Restaurant. He announced that construction of a new Cable Bahamas facility is expected to begin in June. Pictured presenting Mr. Paddick, right, with a certificate of appreciation is Rotary Club of Freeport President Sobig Kemp. (Staff photo by LISA KING)