By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE major part of a $1.5m fine levied against Bahamas Telecommunications Company by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority has been donated towards hurricane relief efforts, the company’s chief executive said yesterday.
Leon Williams said BTC’s “collaboration” with URCA has resulted in the regulator directing the outstanding $1m of the fine to the government’s Hurricane Joaquin relief fund.
BTC officials subsequently told The Tribune that the National Emergency
Management Agency (NEMA) will create a disaster relief fund from the donation.
The donation represents two-thirds of the $1,581,000 fine levied against BTC earlier this year for the March 22, 2014, outage that plagued landline and mobile services to most of BTC’s customers for up to 15 hours, a breach of its licence.
In August, the company paid one third – $527,128 – in cash to URCA.
URCA directed BTC to make proposals for the remaining $1,054,256 to be used to benefit consumers directly, consistent with the objectives of the Communications Act.
In view of the storm’s devastation, URCA’s Board considered it appropriate to donate those funds to the Hurricane Relief Fund.
Randol Dorsett, URCA’s chairman, said: “This is a time for us as a country to come together, put our differences aside and help each other. There is much to do in rebuilding and URCA and its staff will do its part to assist where possible.”
Yesterday Mr Williams said: “Through collaboration URCA has directed the million dollar fine into the relief fund for the government of the Bahamas.”
He also announced the launch of BTC’s hurricane relief initiative – “Each One Reach One” – a text-to-donate initiative in which persons can text a special number to donate funds to aid in providing relief to those suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin.
Mr Williams said BTC has partnered with the Brickell Management Group (BMG) chaired by Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian for the initiative, with both parties to double the donations made by BTC customers.
BTC also said that the Each One Reach One campaign can be accessed by texting the world “HELP” to the number 5200. This way, anybody in possession of a mobile phone can donate $1 to aid in hurricane relief efforts for those in the central and southern Bahama islands.
All proceeds will go directly to the Bahamas Red Cross’ disaster recovery efforts to provide relief to the hurricane affected islands, officials said.
According to Mr Williams, both BTC and BMG will match donations up to 50 per cent each, doubling the amount donated by BTC customers. Nonetheless, customers can text “HELP” to 5200 as many times as they are able to, according to officials.
The initiative will run for one month, ending on November 7.
Mr Bastian added: “We will not leave our brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. We will not only provide the survival materials necessary, but we will also provide the support they need to rebuild their lives.”
According to BTC officials, the text initiative was the brainchild of concerned BTC employees, who, shortly after the storm’s departure, began organising a drive for clothing and supplies. The BTC team has organised three collection points at its JFK Drive, Poinciana Drive and Perpall Tract locations.
Clothing and goods also will be delivered to the Bahamas Red Cross for distribution, officials said.