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Webb Under Pressure To Find Solution In CableVision Row

by Mike Godfrey,, New York

18 September 2002

Bermudian Telecommunications Minister Renee Webb arrived back on the island yesterday and has just three days to try to find a deal to avert the possibility of cable TV CableVision pulling the plug on its services.

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned an injunction Ms Webb obtained two weeks ago to prevent the company going off the air after CableVision turned down a one year licence renewal offered by the Government.

The company originally received a 15-year license in 1987, which expired on 1st September. In the last year it has been spending some millions of dollars to improve its infrastructure, instal fibre-optic cable, and offer advanced facilities to its customers, perhaps including Internet access. Its total investment programme will cost US$7m, and the company seems to have calculated that this would be enough to persuade the Government to renew its license for a further fifteen years. It applied for the renewal last April.

The Government, however, told the company just eight days before the expiry of its license that it would grant an extension just for one year, pending delivery of the promised improvements. Perhaps not surprisingly, the company, in the person of its Chairman, American Rod Hansen, refused, and said that unhappily it would be forced to close down as of 1st September, since it couldn't justify further investment on the basis of just one year.

The Government then obtained an injunction forcing the company to stay open for a month, and it's this injunction which has been struck out. The company has therefore renewed its threat to discontinue services if it isn't given a longer term license but acting Telecommunications Minister Alex Scott got agreement with CableVision on Friday night to have a five day cooling off period to give both sides time to sort out the dispute.

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