PORT-AU-PRINCE – Digicel officials said a steep increase in fuel and water costs, along with Haiti’s ongoing insecurity, are responsible for a price hike that has some customers wanting to break the phone company’s SIM cards.
“We have real inflation, all prices have gone up,” Jean Philippe Brun, a Digicel spokesperson said in a June 1 press conference. “There’s also the security aspect, five years ago, a Digicel technician who went on our sites could refuel them. Today, depending on the area we’re heading to, we need to have security escorts, armored cars and a police escort.”
Calls from the main account cost 16.50 gourdes, or USD $.15 cents, company officials said in a May 30 statement. Through its various plans, it said the average cost of a call per minute is 1.3 gourde, or an amount less than a penny.
Dissatisfied, many consumers took to social media to express their irritation with the increase, saying the phone plans are unaffordable.
“It is another form of kidnapping,” Wagner Makele Prince commented on Facebook. “It is imperative to replenish our account every day in order to have a plan, otherwise we spend 16.5 gourdes per minute. Congratulations, soon the sun will rise over Haiti you will leave as a defeated soldier.”
On WhatsApp, an unidentified disgruntled customer called for Operation “Kase Sim Digicel” — break Digicel SIM cards in English – after saying the plans were a scam. The customer had shared on the messaging platform a recording of his conversation with a Digicel operator who told him that he made a 3-minute phone call that cost 54.90 gourdes because he had not chosen a plan.
In response, CONATEL, the government agency overseeing telecommunications industry, said starting June 1, companies must submit phone plan changes for approval at least eight days before implementation. Companies must also submit a list of their current plans at the end of each quarter.
I live in the US but my life and constant communication with people in Haiti depend upon Digicel and I foot the bill on both ends. That being said; the cell phone “status” swept over Haiti like a hurricane. Yes, Teleco sucked and you couldn’t speak when it was raining, etc., but things still worked eventually in Haitian time. I’ve seen too many people avoid eating, quite school, and other desperate measures to have, and fund, a cell phone. Like many other things in Haiti, the cultural mindset, and status symbol, about the importance of such things such as cell phones needs to be changed. And by saying this I am not saying that the US is doing any better with the newest iPhone purchased by people who can’t feed themselves for today. I believe that Haitians can deal with this better than Americans. I’ve seen many strikes in Haiti called out on one day and carried out then next, country wide.
Digicel came in at the perfect time with the perfect idea. The 2010 earthquake response would have been much more of a nightmare that it was without Digicel. Maybe their time is up? I hate to see those who are living over their heads and feeling entitlement ruin it for the rest of us because that will ultimately effect them also.
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