The government of Antigua and Barbuda has arbitrarily forbidden two out of the three main licensed internet service providers from delivering internet services to consumers through the medium of optical fiber. At the same time, it has invested multimillions in its state-owned-enterprise, APUA Inet, to deploy fiber.
You may say, so what is immoral about that?
Before I start to explain what I regard immoral, let me first define immoral.
The Oxford dictionary defines immoral as: “not conforming to accepted standards of morality”. Some synonyms are unethical, bad, wrongful, wicked, evil and unprincipled.
In this particular context, I wish to convey the meanings of unethical, wicked and unprincipled.
The best way to make you understand the unethical nature of the Government’s decision is expressed in the scenario I describe below.
Let us suppose that you have been pursuing a promotion to the next senior level in your career but in order to achieve that you require completing academic courses that run during working hours.
Let us also suppose that you have a coworker who is pursuing the same career and has the same ambitions as you. You both work in the same department and share the same boss. However, you learned that your department is paying for your coworker’s courses and allowing your coworker time-off with pay to attend the required courses. At the same time when asked, your boss refuses to give you any time-off, and makes it clear that your only choice is quitting your job in order to pursue your academic goals at your own expense.
If you were the employee that was required to quit, how would you feel about the treatment you got?
I would like to suggest that this scenario describes what the government has done to Flow and Digicel.
APUA Inet is the employee who has received the time-off with pay and has its tuition covered by the boss.
Do you think that this behaviour by the boss can be characterised as principled? Is that really fair? This treatment goes beyond favourtism, it is aimed at sabotaging your career!
Would you not immediately think that that unfair treatment was evil and wicked?
To think otherwise would be dishonest, in my opinion.
Let me explain why the situation with the government, Flow/Digicel, and APUA inet is exactly like the scenario I described.
If anyone of you can remember, when internet services were first offered to the public, it was done so via a dialup telephone line. It was slow allowing speeds up to 56kbps. As the last mile technology evolved, we saw higher internet speeds delivered through the use of wireless and DSL technology. Today that next speed improvement comes in the form of optical fiber.
Any internet service provider who is unable to offer fiber connectivity will inevitably go the way of the Dodo bird, particularly if another service provider is able to offer fiber.
This is the exact scenario that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has highhandedly orchestrated. By allowing APUA to deploy fiber exclusively, it has robbed the ability of the other licensed internet service providers, in this case Digicel and Flow, from staying in business in the near future.
By comparison, it is like saying to Flow and Digicel, you are only allowed to provide slow speed dialup internet service while APUA inet can provide high speed DSL service. No consumer in his right mind would buy slow speed internet service from Flow or Digicel when APUA Inet has higher speeds.
It therefore stands that to restrict Flow and Digicel to the slower technologies while APUA Inet is allowed to deliver high speed optical fiber technologies, is tantamount to putting those companies out of business in the long run. This is what I consider most immoral and unethical.
As citizens, we expect our government to be fair and balanced in its dealings with everybody. In this situation, there is no appearance of fairness.
It appears that the government deliberately wants to put Flow and Digicel out of business. Incidentally, Flow and Digicel are significant contributors to the treasury of the government. The minister concerned mentioned that they received over $22M in the last tax cycle.
The lesson you should learn from this, is if your government can treat these large companies like this, what is to say that they would not destroy your small business tomorrow in a similar way.
The government’s handling of this situation is a prime example of where power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I call on the government to do what is moral!