Malta’s internet service providers are worried. Malta’s sole bandwidth provider, Datastream, is merging back with Terranet Ltd, the company representing the Maltanet ISP – both subsidiaries of the Maltacom telecoms giant after having had to split up into two entities.
The company was prohibited by Maltese law from having both its bandwidth provider and ISP represented by one single company until July 2004, when a new telecommunications framework came into being.
At the time of going to press, no announcement had yet been made on the Malta Stock Exchange for the upcoming merger between the two companies.
Rival ISPs were however dismayed at the Maltacom horizontal merger, claiming the move would taint competition.
Aldo Camilleri, managing director at Waldonet, said the real reason for the merger was that Terranet had never been “a financially strong company”.
“Maltacom needs ways and means how to hide its company’s running costs. Terranet even takes long to publish its accounts, and its operation has always been questionable. This is certainly not an exercise related to efficiency or competition.”
Camilleri said that despite the new telecommunications framework, the Datastream-Terrant merger will bring up the issue of fair competition.
“We have been subsidising Terranet for ages,” a wry Camilleri said about the island’s ISPs dependant upon Datastream’s services. “There’s nothing new, it’s the same old story – this is a country where the rule of law does not count. The authorities will not hear us.
“Personally I don’t have any hopes that the authorities will do anything serious about telecoms competition, but the effects on the consumer will be detrimental since the quality of the service will not be born by a real and fair competition, and that has always been the issue,” Camilleri said.