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World Cup internet charges - just not cricket

Heavyweight expense sheets in the West Indies

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Some saw it coming, others didn't. When the first world media decamps to the developing world the last expression you expect to hear is "value for money".

However, the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies is something of a record breaker for charging heavily for things that fail to work quite as expected.

Former England cricketer Derek Pringle - a seasoned world traveller with both a bat and a laptop - issued an early warning last year in his column in the Daily Telegraph.

"Next year's World Cup in the Caribbean is threatening exploitation on a scale not seen in the region since pirates and colonial overlords plundered it hundreds of years ago. Hotels are the main culprits by tripling rack rates and their barefaced refusal to refund hefty deposits should any plans change."

However, in-situ, the main bone of contention seems to be local technology hosts who are the monopoly supplier of communication services. The slowest wireless service per day is $60 for the six megabyte option. Add $50 to that for once-only set up charges.

Those wanting fixed line access are being asked to pay between $99 and $360 per week, but in a clever twist most journalists have to pay a month's charges to cover the full tournament - even if their team goes home early. Those taking the top of the range service for the full World Cup are being asked to pay a whopping $720 with calls charged made through the line not included.

(At the last Cricket World Cup in South Africa fixed line access was only a token $7 a day.)

Zimbabwean Tristan Holme, the correspondent covering the tournament for Cricket365.com, was heard saying that "being here at the World Cup is a pleasure and a honour, but I have to agree with my colleagues that the internet costs here are frankly ridiculous".

The BBC has several reporters in the Caribbean and has been heavily stung. One commented that: "Internet access at top events is usually provided free. It is part of doing the job. We can't live without it. They know that."

In response, even well heeled parties have opted for the basic wireless match day package, rather than the comprehensive service they would normally have chosen.

Some took their complaints to communications director Marvia Roach, but she suggested that the World Cup hosts had no real control over the matter.

"I personally wasn't involved in negotiating the rates," she reportedly said. "They are provided by our service provider (Cable & Wireless). We did work with them and advised them along the way of rates we thought we ought to have, but they have to provide the service and there is no obligation on their part to provide that service at a discounted rate."

Having paid through the nose, a journalist would then think they had a full working service. But no. The telecommunications network in the press box only works during set hours during the games - so as soon as it's been turned off (which it need not be), the poor hack has to retreat to the overcrowded media centre or their hotel.

Not that the spectators are fairing any better. For them the "can't live without" is the basic stuff of life - water. According to blogs being written by paying spectators, they have been charged for water at the price of $3 a cup! Spectators' own drinks have also been confiscated on "health and safety reasons".

One blogger - hosted by the Barbados Free Press - said his wife became ill through not getting enough to drink, having had their own supplies taken by stewards at the gate.

Read the full account here. ®

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