Cayman regulator supports net neutrality

| 18/12/2017 | 19 Comments

(CNS): In contrast to the telecoms regulator in the United States, OfReg, the Cayman Islands’ regulator, continues to support net neutrality, which ensures that all internet traffic is treated equally by the internet service providers (ISPs). Last week, in a hugely unpopular move, the US Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality rules, which will allow ISPs to speed up or slow down, or even block, service for websites, potentially creating a two-tiered internet highway that favours large established businesses. Digicel, like the US providers, has welcomed deregulation in the US and urged similar moves in their own market in the Caribbean.

While there are no Cayman laws or regulations that directly cover this issue, the Utility Regulation and Competition Office, known as OfReg, like its predecessor, the Information and Communications Technology Authority, supports net neutrality, according to Alee Fa’amoe, OfReg Executive Director for ICT.

Noting that the regulator “is closely monitoring developments within the industry”, Fa’amoe said the regulations “are under consideration to provide greater clarity to both consumers and the ICT industry”.

In 2010, the ICTA upheld net neutrality rules following public consultation on the matter, though it appears that legislators have dragged their feet in making the changes to the law recommended by ICTA.

In answer to questions from CNS, Fa’amoe stated, “The specific 2010 suggested changes were not addressed directly.” However, the the Utility Regulation and Competition Law, which passed in 2016 and was implemented early 2017, gave OfReg, the new umbrella regulator that included ICT, greater powers “to address and rectify these types of issues”, he said.

“Consumer protection is not only a key element of the Law, but is also a focus of the Office,” Fa’amoe added, pointing to OfReg’s ongoing consultation on proposed Consumer Protection Regulations.

Indicating that another consultation for the industry is planned for early next year, he said, “In terms of regulations affecting ISPs, broadband regulations will be the subject of an upcoming consultation planned for early 2018.”

In any public discussion on the matter, net neutrality is likely to be a hot topic, as internet providers tend to favour deregulation. In anticipation of the FCC’s 14 December decision, Digicel issued a release on 23 November, calling it a “victory for telecoms, consumers and economies”, as it urged Caribbean regulators “to take note and not simply apply a blanket one size fits all approach in their markets”.

Digicel, like the ISPs in the United States, claims that it will not “throttle”, or slow down, some websites, saying it supports an open internet. However, it takes issue with internet giants Google and Facebook, which, they say “notably invest no money in infrastructure, while stifling innovation and seriously hampering the telecoms companies who provide and pay for the Internet networks”.

The Caribbean-based ISP stated, “The new approach now being put forward by the FCC recognises that micro-managing the internet leads to reduced investment in broadband networks and creates unnecessary red tape and uncertainty for investors. It recognises that not all traffic on the Internet needs to be treated in the same way and gives freedom and flexibility to network operators and content providers to offer a wider range of services so that consumers can choose the one that suits them.”

The Digicel statement continued, “The move by the FCC in the US to a more light touch form of internet regulation is designed to encourage investment in networks. This is instructive for the markets of the Caribbean where the positive economic impact of broadband access is evident but where the most investment in broadband networks is needed. Digicel believes that this is important to ensure that the Caribbean is a key player in the digital economy and that it is not only regions such as Silicon Valley that benefit from the online revolution.”

Nevertheless, deregulation could enable Digicel or another ISP to legally throttle certain websites in favour of others. Currently, this is not allowed and Fa’amoe said that OfReg “would take issue with such interference with a consumer’s use of an ICT service”. The regulator “does have powers to sanction licensees”, he said, “the exact nature of which would be entirely dependent upon the specific nature of the misbehaviour”.

See the ICTA’s consultation and decision on net neutrality (ICT Decision 2010-4): A Policy for Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and Similar Technologies

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Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If you are meticulous, you would notice that the “shopping” tab has been removed from your google search page, why?
    Can anyone say?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Free up the internet and free up the herb!

  3. Bluff Patrol says:

    So if all our internet traffic is routed through the US how will we practically ensure or enforce net neutrality?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well you could build a wall. But seriously no one cares what Cayman says about the internet. If you want US stuff you have to pay at the door.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tek dat Yankees! Cayman lead de worl’.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Support it all you want, there is limited band with coming in and out of Cayman which will determine speeds. I pay Logic for the top 100mb/s package and my download speed was barely hitting 30 mb/s on Sunday night.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Our government should not give in to the self serving comments of Digicell. We should not make the same mistake the US has. We need to keep the internet free and open not another tool of the rich corporations..

  7. Anonymous says:

    When the FCC did away with net neutrality, it wasn’t a “hugely unpopular move”, as you write. Rather, it was hugely unpopular only with leftists — which means the bulk of the media, Hollywood, and Democrat politicians. The rest of us cheered. Trump is doing what he said he would do, which is what the majority elected him to do. And yes, I said “majority” because that’s what would be recorded if you subtract all the vote fraud by the other side. But then, what can you expect from a country that balks at requiring voter ID — something required in every other country in the world? Think about that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, CNS, please correct this. The ending of net neutrality was hugely unpopular only by people who understood the issue. Idiotic sheep who don’t understand that Fox News is a right wing pro-Trump anti-Obama propaganda tool, and believe the lie that there was voter fraud on the Clinton side (Russians. Cyber attack. Duh!!) also believe that net neutrality will be good for the little people. You cannot argue with them. They are thoroughly brainwashed and terminally stupid.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not all of us are all Obama/Castro/Hugo Chavez commie lovers like you. Of course you like the government being able to dictate what provider can and can’t do with the bandwidth they pay for! Interesting you don’t live in any of your beloved commie countries though, rather try to suck the wealth from other around you eh?

    • Slacker says:

      Apparently you do not have access to Google, so let me tell you the reality. 83% of US voters are against this “deregulation” .

      Oh yes, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T will be on their best behavior for the next few months and then things will gradually change….

      Also, please remember that the “internet” was a Government funded technology. The private sector is just trying to maximize their profits. Their commitment is to their shareholders not individual users.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Of course Digicel is in favour of deregulation. They can slowdown what’s app calls, to force consumers to use digicels phone service.
    Net neutrality protects the consumer. Isp’s do not need to be protected.


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