OfReg seeks input on plans for better broadband

| 22/03/2018 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Following revelations by the premier last week that government will be building the missing fibre optic network that the local cable and telecommunication companies have failed to provide, the regulator is seeking public input on plans for the infrastructure Cayman will need to meet the future demands of the digital economy. Given the increasing dependence on superior broadband, OfReg said the questions it has to address are how Cayman defines broadband and then how to deliver it to everyone.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly last week about the poor provision of TV in the eastern districts, where the cable and telecom firms have not honoured their licence obligations to roll out their fibre optic network, the premier said government was going to do it instead.

Because there are fewer customers the further east they go, the communication firms are unwilling to make the investment and the government unwilling to revoke the licences, So, in order for all Cayman residents to get access to technology, the regulator has said it will step in.

OfReg is now asking people to submit comments and input on the definition of broadband, based on a consultation paper it has released, which is available on the OfReg website. It discusses the current digital economy in Cayman and provides an updated proposed definition of broadband that will dictate the minimum standards that internet service providers (ISPs) will need to provide across all areas of Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands within three years to ensure the digital needs of the country are being met now and into the future.

“The digital economy is continuing to transform the way we live, work and interact with one another and Cayman’s ICT infrastructure needs to accommodate this ever-increasing dependency on digital technologies,” said Alee Fa’amoe, Deputy CEO and Executive Director of ICT at OfReg. “Consumers also need to have clarity on what they are paying for and this new definition holds the ISPs accountable for delivery of that requirement.”

The proposed new definition states: “Internet Service Provider licensed ICT service providers
must offer broadband Internet access services to all Cayman residents defined as services with download speeds of 100 Mbps (megabits per second) and upload speeds of 50 Mbps or higher, with at least one of their broadband service plans at this speed or higher offering an unlimited data allowance.”

To ensure that the new requirement is as “future proof” as possible, a detailed examination of equivalent definitions in Canada, the UK, the EU and the USA were undertaken, with the findings presented in the consultation paper.

Once OfReg has defined what broadband is, the next question is how to make it available to all consumers. With service providers moving away from old ADSL systems based on copper pairs towards fibre optic systems, Cayman needs this kind of infrastructure island-wide.

When their original licences were issued years ago, telecommunications providers were required to deploy fibre optic networks island-wide. But, as noted by the premier in the LA last week and set out in the consultation report from OfReg, this has not happened.

OfReg has detailed the failure of Cayman’s telecommunications providers to meet their current licence obligations. Had they done so, we would have had a fibre network twelve years ago. But given the current state of play, the consultation paper is now looking at the steps required today to guide ISPs on what the new ‘broadband’ and ‘fibre optic cable network’ needs are.

“It is entirely possible that a service provider may be reluctant to build their network into an area
that is sparsely populated,” said Fa’amoe, who pointed out that it is a common problem. In other countries, special funding mechanisms are created to ensure services are delivered to citizens
who live in rural areas. Such networks, sometimes called a “Universal Service Network” or USN,
are typically a form of a shared network.

“While OfReg sees itself as a ‘light-touch’ regulator, all regulators have a duty to intervene where the market fails,” Fa’amoe stated, as he pointed out that the competitive market in Cayman had failed to deliver ubiquitous fiber optic cable networks despite the obligations.

He explained that once the broadband definition was finalised, OfReg was willing to leverage its powers under the law to build a USN to achieve the desired end result, as announced by the premier last week.

The aim is to begin the installation of the USN following the consultation, and OfReg expects to issue a determination on the issue by the end of September, with a view to finishing the fibre network in all districts across all three islands within 18 months.

Responses to or comments on the consultation paper, available on the OfReg website, should be made in writing to OfReg by 5:00 pm on 18 April 2018

by email to consultations@ofreg.ky

by post to
Utility Regulation and Competition Office
P.O. Box 2502
Grand Cayman KYl-1104

or delivered by hand to the OfReg office at Alissta Towers, 3rd floor, 85 North Sound Road.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In an ideal scenario the CIG would enforce the contracts of current service providers. However they would likely spend a fortune in legal fees to do this. The $ may be better spent investing in infrastructure instead of lengthy litigation.

    The question of government owning the infrastructure (I’ll assume fiber optics for sake of discussion) becomes- is the internet now viewed as an ‘essential utility’ similar to water, power, roads etc.? If the answer is no, leave it in the hands of the private sector. If it is yes, there may be an argument for CIG to install/own appropriate fiber infrastructure. It could help move the island away from the current facilities base infrastructure where the Telcos own the cabling, electronics, and the customer. If CIG owns the cabling, then the service providers could operate via the network, and compete on a service level only. Generally speaking, though expensive to initially deploy, fiber is often the least expensive of any infrastructure to deploy and maintain by a municipality. CIG should provide comparisons of 1 km of paved roads, water lines, etc versus a km of fiber, trenched or hung on poles.

    There are models where this is happening. One that comes to mind is a small city in Idaho, Ammon (pop. 16,000+). They use a hardware solution to deliver a true open network environment. Details can be found at this link including a link to a white paper outlining the structure the Municipality chose. https://www.entpnt.com/single-post/2017/07/06/Ammon-Model-%E2%80%93-City-of-Ammon-Fiber-to-the-Home-FTTH-Financial-Model
    When referring to an open network with multiple providers in a solution such as Ammon has, the consumer can change providers in a couple of minutes online, seamlessly. This puts the consumer in a much stronger position, and forces the providers to offer consistent excellent service. Previously this was a foreign concept to most consumers in North America.

    Another Company, named COS Systems, uses a software solution to provide true open access network solutions to municipalities. They have been active in Sweden for 20 years and now have solutions in the US, including smaller markets in Washington State.

    The last 100 feet of the solution for Cayman would take some consideration as to how best to solve. I note that 4G and 5G have been suggested in this thread, and if you are considering 4G, you might as well wait and go straight to 5G. The key point is 5G will require fiber connectivity and far more towers/radios, though smaller in scale, to distribute the much faster signals. What this means is you will be running a lot of fiber throughout the island and the cost comparison should be done as to how much more it would cost to take fiber to the premise (home or business).

    Ideally, trenching the fiber into the ground would be ideal, but expensive to bore through the rock. It would provide greater reliability during flood and hurricane events, but with a high upfront cost. Hanging it on power poles is esthetically less appealing, more susceptible to Mother Nature, but at a cost savings.

    Start with the ‘Why’ and be crystal clear on the outcomes you hope to create by having CIG owned infrastructure. List all the current problems you want to solve, and the new opportunities you plan to create. Research other case studies. Engage the business community and residents.

    Then move to the ‘How’ – fiber, 5G, hybrid etc.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So you mean to tell me that these service providers failed to hold up their end of a contract and now the public has to pay for CIG to build a network? SLOW has made billions from this economy. Why should we have to pay for infrastructure that they agreed to provide? OffReg needs to enforce the regulations and CIG needs to give them a dead line to have these networks completed. What will happen is that government will build the network, charge a fee to the service providers who will in turn pass this cost onto the consumer. In my eyes the consumers will not benefit from this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What about all the stinking unwanted local ads that pop up like I paid for them?

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  4. Anonymous says:

    They should make them reduce prices for all the plans now as we are obviously now getting the speeds advertised. I Believe it’s false advertisement or fraud??

  5. Crab Claw says:

    Don’t Flow already have a complete cable system in place.

    Also why isn’t all these free to air stations not broadcasting, look into that as well.

    The way I see it is any cable company that agreed to their licence to provide high speed broadband and isn’t doing so should be suspended from doing business after a cut off point, it should not be the government building the infrastructure for them, plus sending anything over a government owned line gives me nightmares of them spying even more and GCHQ given even more access to our data.

    While ICTA is at it force Flow to increase their broadband minimum package offering, as 5 MBPS a month is a shame and disgrace.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Seems like we have alot of experts here.. maybe you experts can form a company, piggyback off of the gov proposed, public funded fibre and make the huge investment for equipment/materials/construction/maintenance etc and then sell it to at a rate that you will never get your money back… just saying.. we have to be thankful for what we have in comparison to many other places in the world far more populated!

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    • Anonymous says:

      what we have is the most expensive internet in the world! Don’t believe me?! Look for yourself.

      The research from UK-based cable.co.uk found that someone living in Iran will pay an average of $5.37 per month for a broadband package. Surfing the net is also cheap in Eastern Europe with the average monthly price coming to $5.51 in Ukraine, $9.93 in Russia and $13.47 in Romania. Things get more expensive in Western Europe where a customer in Germany would spend an average of $34.07.

      American internet users would have to pay nearly twice that amount. The U.S. is ranked 114th overall with monthly costs averaging $66.17.

      Now the cheapest bandwidth offered from flow. 80 dollars plus the cost of the phone, brining it darn near 100 CI, or 120USD!!!!!!

      that is insane.

      • Anonymous says:

        So your comparison is with much larger countries… Compare the price of anything with that respect and see if its not much more expensive here on these little islands. Do a better research and find a country in comparison to the Cayman islands (population, income etc). I agree everything is pricey here, maybe too much so!

  7. Anon says:

    Start with on-island peering – at the moment we lose over 605 of the bandwidth that we pay for having to leave the island to connect to another provider in the next office. Crazy, should not be allowed and makes Cayman’s role in finance more difficult in this age of cyber-finance. C&W are not interested in making this happen as it will further increase competition. CIG – stand up and be counted in this area please!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    4G LTE or 5G. Please don’t waste yet more of our money on the antiquated Broadband and Fiber networks.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for this CIG. We have been ripped off by SLOW and diggersell for years. My internet is always going out and customer service is crap.

      However my plans for a new home was submitted online and I get an email every time a decision is made on my application. My my how things have changed. Private sector ripping us off and the civil service offering better service.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Step one: enforce the current contracts. If the various companies want to band together (or just outsource to a third party, like CUC who already has fiber trunk routes not being used IIRC) to create a defacto USN providing broadband (fiber optic or 5G, lets just skip 4G entirely and do 5G right in 2021) to the ‘low density’ areas, or do it themselves, that’s their business decision.

    Step Two: there is no step two. (Well, there may be in Cayman Brac & Little Cayman. But step two over there is to mandate cell coverage upgrade to 5G beginning in 2021 once 5G is standardized, due in 2020 IIRC.)

    Step 3: while enforcing the current contracts, do so also for the ‘local & free’ content broadcast requirements. Again, there are ways the companies can outsource the content production to third-party suppliers if they don’t want the cost, or think there is limited scope for local content production and viewing. And they can ‘broadcast’ the content via internet if they do not have over-the-air broadcast capability. (I can see them not wanting to pay a competitor so they can meet their legal requirements. But that’s not my problem as a consumer expecting OffReg to enforce the contract terms that are there to benefit the public.) I don’t care if they are all showing the same CI football games and coking shows produced by ‘Bodden-TV’ but until they provide the airtime ‘Bodden-TV’ cannot occur. Its a chicken and egg problem, the solution of which lies in OffReg’s hands, and the tele-media companies contracts.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is what you get when you have a telecom monopoly that has reined and taken the mickey for donkeys years.

    Even though some of the newcomers get licences they have to pay, beg and grovel to get their customers share of broadband allocation from the Maya I, whilst others install ground stations at serious capital cost. The other monopoly CUC together with C&W hold the ace care and have made it a very tedious process in allowing use of their transmission conduits so no wonder there’s no fibre in remote districts.

    The ICTA licences are not worth the paper they’re on and were cobbled together with out much thought or future planning. How are major businesses and key transportation infrastructure suppose to decentralise if they have to resort to a tin cans and string solution for telecoms?

    Now we’re all expected to bend over for this oversight. Just another third world scenario in a so-called first world country. Funny business as usual.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Fibre is already antiquated technology. What we need are true 4G LTE wireless telecom speeds. If we had the bandwidth and speed, we could just use Mifi hubs like elsewhere in the world without the cabling. The best that Digicel’s so-called, “3G” can muster is around 10mbps x 5mbps (comparable to 2G elsewhere). On urbanized networks in the USA or Canada we would have 4G LTE speeds of 300+ mbps on our devices and would be looking forward to 5G rollout in the next couple years. That’s the problem not fixed by paying a crony businessman to dig up roads, interrupt traffic, and lay obsolete wire and switch station infrastructure that will have to be metered and serviced – with government fees passed on to consumers.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Ignorance on display here. Just keep pumping electromagnetic radiation through us organic entities. Fiber keeps the power localized, is immune to interference and is as fast as the light can be encoded/decoded.
      Please don’t post such sweeping statements without giving both sides a shout. It smacks of zealotry.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    First thing they need to do is sort CUC out so that cable operators can easily access their poles to build out the networks. Putting cables underground isn’t always the option given the salt water damage in the event of a hurricane and sea-surge.

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  13. Mr. D says:

    Government should use the undergound facilities that these companies have to supply the proper fibre optic services for Cayman Islands residential customers. The Cables in the sky are going to be very cumbersome for Services vehicles and customers alike. We want a network not a net of cables. Thanks.

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