One Communications today denied reports reaching Bermuda Real that customers were lining up to cancel their cable subscriptions as a result of the new Local Programming that goes into effect next month.

We received several calls, emails and messages via social media suggesting customers were lined up in droves last week to terminate their cable service to avoid paying just over $11, starting in March, for local programming on cable.

When contacted by Bermuda Real, a spokeswoman for the company said: “We have experienced lines outside the store since the beginning of COVID due to limitations around the number of customers allowed in the store and not specifically due to the additional Local Programming Fee.

“We have not experienced a more than anticipated spike in cancellations as we value our customer relationships and have been working with our customers to make changes to their accounts to minimize, as best as possible, the cost impact.”

Asked for the record, what the response to this new fee has been, or whether it has resulted in the termination of service – if so, to what degree, she declined comment.

“Our goal throughout this process was to do everything possible to minimize the impact to our customers,” she said.

“We have ensured that they were unaffected by increased programming costs charged by content providers for the last eight (8) years.

“Given the magnitude of these new rate increases for Channels 7 & 9, determined by the Telecommunications Commission (Government), additional fees were no longer avoidable.

“We value our customer relationships and have been working with our customers to make changes to their accounts to limit any financial impact, including bundling,” she added.

We also asked why One Communications was the only cable service provider to announce this new fee, when both Digicel and Wow also carry the local channels.

“We cannot speak to the agreements that other companies have in place for BBC programming,” the spokesperson said.

She noted however: “That our FibreWire TV packages are still offered at a lower cost in comparison, and include more value.”

On February 8, Chairman of the Telecommunications Commission (TC), lawyer and former Progressive Labour Party MP Michael Scott said: “The decision was reached to allow the increase, retroactive to the end of the last agreement.”

That agreement expired on October 31, 2020.

“The rate decision by the TC was based on the range of rates the parties submitted in their attempt to negotiate a commercial agreement,” he added.

The Commission’s decision was based in part on the following:

  • To preserve the legal transmission of network affiliate content on local cable television networks
  • To ensure the production and transmission of news and local events by the BBC
  • To help safeguard the jobs of approximately 40 Bermudian employees by the BBC

“In respect of cost to One Communications, the Commission’s decision was based in part on the need for One to pay a fair market rate for the BBC’s content,” said Mr Scott.

“The decision to increase fees was arrived at through careful and thoughtful deliberation by the Telecommunications Commission; how and if these allowed rates are passed on to the customer is a business decision of One Communications.”

The main complaint cited by the company’s subscribers who reached out to Bermuda Real was they were not given a choice.

One woman said: “The customers don’t have a choice to exclude local programming from their cable packages.

“I should be able to drop local programming if I don’t want to pay this fee,” she said. “And I still don’t know if I switch over to Digicel or WOW, whether or not this new fee will be added as well, because they both carry local content.

“My main problem is the fact it amounts to paying for local television news five nights a week, with no news on weekends or public holidays – and for that I must pay a fee,” she said.

“Right now it’s either take it or leave it – I choose to leave it – consider my cable subscription CANCELLED!”