OfReg set back ICT progress, says director

| 20/07/2020 | 64 Comments
Alee Fa’amoe (file photo)

(CNS): The executive director responsible for the regulation of the telecommunications sector under the umbrella utilities regulator, OfReg, has said the creation of this entity had not only failed to meet public expectations but had also undermined the progress of ICT regulation and development. Alee Fa’amoe told the Public Accounts Committee that the creation of OfReg “has held us back”.

Fa’amoe gave some honest answers when he appeared before the committee, accepting in full the report on the agency by the Office of the Auditor General. He agreed that the main goals when the regulator was created, namely to improve telecommunications, increase internet speeds and make access easier and cheaper, had not been achieved.

Fa’amoe pointed to a number of issues that have created problems for these goals since the creation of OfReg, not least being the huge limitations to address the issues now placed on each sector by the board at every meeting. The executive directors are asked to keep their presentation about the four sectors to 15 minutes, even though the board meetings last seven hours, as the other members deal with wider policy gaps.

The ICT director said that on its current trajectory, OfReg was not going to meet its goals. He said he was not offering excuses but he simply did not have the resources he needed to deal with the problems surrounding the ICT arm of OfReg. This is despite the fact that the ICT section of OfReg is the only one that is generating its own funds.

He told PAC about the ongoing and significant problems surrounding CUC’s communication arm, DataLink. This is regulated by OfReg but is unwilling to share pole space with other players in the sector, which is the main problem preventing the rollout of fibre-optic communication here.

Fa’amoe said that DataLink took the regulator to court after it tried to make the company meet its regulatory obligations, and won. He said that OfReg lost largely on a technicality and that had a lot to do with its lack of legal expertise compared to DataLink due to financial limitations.

“They spent three times more on lawyers than us and we lost,” Fa’amoe said, noting that when OfReg tried to make DataLink address just one area that was preventing telecoms providers from getting access to their poles, they took the regulator to court.

This was just one of six areas of regulation where there are difficulties, he explained, adding that every time OfReg goes to battle to address the significant problems that still exist, it would be “outnumbered and outgunned”.

The ICT director pointed to the problems of these legal challenges as well as the fact that the telecoms companies themselves are not willing to share infrastructure. He said there were several disputes before the regulator and many areas of contention between the stakeholders that OfReg has to resolve. Fa’amoe said the Datalink case was the first where the regulator had made a decision and it was immediately challenged in court.

But in his frank explanations to PAC, he said that it was not just these challenges that were hampering the fibre rollout and accepted that OfReg had to be much more aggressive in its role as a regulator. In particular, he noted the failure of the telecoms companies to provide the service that they charge people for.

When his colleague, Gregg Anderson, appeared before PAC on Wednesday, he told the members that electricity bills have been lower since March and they would continue to fall. Anderson, who is the executive director for the regulation of electricity and water, said OfReg conducted an assessment and found consumers who use an average of 1,000 kilowatts per month had seen a drop of more than $40 in monthly bills.

See the OAG report, Efficiency and Effectiveness of OfReg, in the CNS Library

See the PAC meeting on CIGTV below:


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Category: Business, ICT, Politics, Private Sector Oversight, utilities

Comments (64)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The government has been allowing CUC to rip us off for years…might as well put up with the rest…POOR/INCOMPETENT GOVERNMENT

  2. Anonymous says:

    What is probably going to happen as a result of all this is…..nothing. Not ordinary nothing but Cayman-style nothing where there is a grand announcement that ofreg will be disbanded and new sector-specific regulators created as if this is a new approach by a forward thinking government that will solve all our issues. In fact it is just recycling what failed last time. Senior positions will be given to loyal supporters without regard to qualifications. They will spend millions on cars and office space and cocktail parties and fact-finding trips to Monaco and then millions more on consultants to spend years preparing reports that they will spend years considering before declaring them out of date. And 5, 10, 20 years from now we will be in the exact same position, or worse, and hundreds of millions of dollars poorer.

    Real leaders would be thumping the table and threatening to nationalise the infrastructure if the utilities don’t do what they are told. They’d be threatening to cap CUC fees and stipulate maintenance and improvement spend if CUC didn’t start using forward contracts to smooth out the price of oil. They’d give ISPs a week to deliver a binding commitment to deliver what they are paid to deliver. But absolutely none of this will happen because the leaders of this fine country like things just the way they are with their pockets lined and their special interests protected and the political favour bank open for business.

    Sorry if this seems a little pessimistic but until voters care more about the future of the country than new whiteware and driveways for their government issue SUVs nothing about Cayman will change.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is so surreal, I am surprised that he didn’t start referring to himself in the third person as the one responsible.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “But in his frank explanations to PAC, he said that it was not just these challenges that were hampering the fibre rollout and accepted that OfReg had to be much more aggressive in its role as a regulator. In particular, he noted the failure of the telecoms companies to provide the service that they charge people for”

    Literally did a double take:

    “In particular, he noted the failure of the telecoms companies to provide the service that they charge people for”

    Not that this admission in and of itself entirely surprises me, anyone who has lived in any other region of the world know we get ripped off and overcharged for simple plans and packages here. What is really concerning is that You know this is the case, yet OfReg sits back and does nothing

    I am not sure if you all in that office are ineffective or just inept but either way, the lot of them need to be given their walking papers and replaced with people who can actually get the job done, If CUC and the telecoms companies won’t play ball then the LA needs to start amending laws they were quick to run into the LA to spend multiple days debating gay marriage but here there are sitting on their hands doing nothing as people are ripped off under their watch

    Under our system these companies have every incentive to cut corners and rip people off, knowing full well OfReg will sit back and watch it happen
    Things have to change and eventually people will start calling for more drastic changes if the problem isn’t handled now

    • Anonymous says:

      The Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Joey Hew, has a brother, Richard Hew, who is CEO of CUC/DataLink. Isn’t it odd that the SIPL, ACC, and OAG can’t see the conflicts of interest with these strange commercial coincidences and revelations which benefit CUC/DataLink while impeding the public interest.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t know about anyone else but I would find my brother very easy to sue. He’s an ass but I love him – he wouldn’t stop me doing my duty anyway. If he didn’t understand he wouldn’t be my brother.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr Anderson said that electrical bills has been lower since March. His might have been lower, but mine increased and CUC blamed on people working from home and using their a.c. and internet more.

    I am retired and used the same a.c. and internet as I usually do and my bill increased. I might add, that I have been using less electricity, because I stopped putting on the outside lights, stopped washing and drying my clothes so often. I even switched off the breakers in the panel box that I don’t use all the time, such as the water heater, dryer and washer and my cuc bill still increased.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Fa’amoe was making good progress prior to the formation of OfReg. What he is saying is the truth and if the government does the right thing it will remove ICTA from OfReg and allow Fa’amoe to do what he is competent and capable of doing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It was a waste of time from DAY 1= HIGH GAS & WATER & INTERNET & NOW GROCERY PRICES! FIRE THEM ALL & START FROM SCRATCH!! BRACKA.

  8. Ed Snowden II says:

    And that Hollywood, Florida uplink also allows for Uncle Sam’s 3 Letter Agencies to tap and suck up data to share with the UK (GCHQ) agency + Australia & some Asian countries agencies.👁

    https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/submarine-cable/maya-1

    Thanks for your honesty, Alee. I hope it was from integrity, and not forced by the recent report on OfReg’s poor, poor performance to date.

  9. Yard BoyZ says:

    Just Another Lodge bro earning Big Bucks$$$ Its time for women to take control of $#!@ here in Cayman. We simply are not progressing forward!

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean like Juju in a mumu driving the paving truck? Now responsible for setting back Cayman edumacation at least 2 years? Good luck with this generation getting jobs over expats. If Cayman is to survive the hard times ahead you should put expats in charge of important stuff. Which means Cayman is not going to survive the way it is. Bad things coming, then big changes, then things are good again………For expats.

      • Anonymous says:

        Or Tara who has been silent since Carona started. Come on Tara. I voted for you!! Can you not speak? Even Jon Jon trying.

  10. Gray Matter says:

    This man should be fired. He too can’t get a thing done… CUC bullying him over the use of their poles and wins.
    Really! If I was head of this I would fight back and tell them the Real Estate their poles are on belongs to the people of the islands AND CHARGE THEM A FEFTY RENTAL FEE IF THE WONT PLAY FAIR. ITS THAT SIMPLE.

  11. Craig Walker says:

    The government should pay every car registrant $500for over charging and every household $500for over charged utilities.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Gee, no kidding. All you have to see are the four different conduits that have been cut into WB Road to understand that this is a true backwater where the CIG is outgunned at everyturn. When is the last time they actually won a case or enforced a regulation? The big players all know that they can flout the law and then win a court battle.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Alee seems very honest and trustworthy, hopefully we see progress soon.

    • Anonymous says:

      He is the exec director – it’s his fault – he the person in charge of hiring and firing, disclosures, processes, literally every function of OfReg. Do people not know what a Board is supposed to do?!? Jesu.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is the role of the OfReg CEO.

        However, the Board Chairman Linford Pierson is clearly the Captain of the OfReg ship

      • Anonymous says:

        He’s the Executive Director responsible for regulating his industry. There are three other Executive Directors, plain Directors, a CEO, Deputy CEO, Chairman, and Deputy Chairman too. Each one with an ego with the size of Mars. Yes the Board is pathetic and should be replaced – that’s no excuse for the failures of the Board’s appointees. They’re doing what they can, apparently. Linford is the one who needs to go and anyone allied with him.

        • Anonymous says:

          OBVIOUSLY, to fix this mess – we need even more “golden grifters”, with even more pompous titles – Assistant Deputy to the Tertiary-Chief of Light Bulb Changing (Acting), comes to mind.

    • Anonymous says:

      Alee is part of the original problem that led to major delays in fibre deployment and excess costs to consumers.

    • Gray Matter says:

      He is too soft; they walk all over him

  14. Anon says:

    All the ISPs have to buy off island capacity from C&W (Flow).

    There is no on island peering. If your office uses Flow and at home your using Logic to connect to your office the data travels upto Miami and back again rather than remaining on island. It’s in C&W interest to peer in Miami as this ensures the other ISPs then need to buy this additonal capacity.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of bullsh&%. This whole bunch of OffReg blowbags need to be fired and quit wasting our tax dollars.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This was just one of six areas of regulation where there are difficulties, he explained, adding that every time OfReg goes to battle to address the significant problems that still exist, it would be “outnumbered and outgunned”.

    This was the whole point of OfReg. Create an entity that can’t possibly do all of its jobs and can itself be blamed for that failure. That leaves the politicians free from criticism, blame or pressure to change not only the problems but also the regulator itself.

    Unfortunately if what Mr. Fa’amoe says is true, OfReg does need a lot more resources and support. DataLink means CUC which does indeed have the money to outgun them. Utilities are powerful, regulators are not unless you give them real heft and teeth. The fact that more money is needed for OfReg to actually carry out its mandate seems to be beyond argument based on these frank assessments given to the PAC; the question is, is it OfReg that can deliver those results even if it gets the money? Mr. Fa’amoe seems to be saying that too is in some doubt.

    Looks like Government’s plan worked perfectly. Since the creation of independent regulators, there has been no improvement in the sectors being regulated. This is classic Yes Minister stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      In a normal market the regulator would be able to put the utilities arm behind its back if they got cute on their legal rights by hammering on other areas of compliance, naming and shaming them and at worst removing their licence, but a) you need cojones to do that b) when they do attempt to assert power the utilities simply ignore them so the only remedy is to take legal action, and OfReg does …nothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Original poster here. I have actually advised OfReg in my capacity as an attorney and I can tell you that they would not pay for me to finish my job.

  17. Anonymous says:

    As a previous board member of the ICTA, I had suspected that the creation of OfReg would be a disaster… and so it is. The one bright spot is Alee Fa’amoe. If the ICTA still existed in its original form, with him as its leader, I suspect things would be a lot different.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lodge is Lodge.

    • Anonymous says:

      Buck stops with him though as he’s the Exec Director.

      • Anonymous says:

        For Telecoms. There are three other Exec Directors, a Deputy CEO, CEO, and Board comprised of Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and Directors. The buck does not stop with Alee Fa’amoe – that was his very point. If it did, he would have produced results.

        • Anon says:

          Like what? What has he accomplished in the ICTA before all this mess? Who was spending a ton of money on travel? We’ll wait for an answer, since pac hasn’t ask those questions yet

  18. Anonymous says:

    Good play Sir. It was working so well before eh 🤣🤣.

  19. Anonymous says:

    We keep seeing this finger-pointing game from ill-suited failing board members at a variety of public regulators, SAGCs, and performance-monitoring Committees. They disqualify themselves from re-nomination by virtue of their past non-performance. Worse, there is this misplaced expectation that they carry no personal responsibility over the organization culture, disclosures, conflicts, codes of practice, and composition of leadership of the organizations they oversee – literally the entire purpose of appointing a functional and responsible Board. These people need to be disqualified and audited for suspected conflict. That is, if tackling government corruption matters at all…

  20. Truth says:

    Hello,
    All this just proves the point.

    There is an overwhelming need for a law regulating and publishing a list of membership to political, social, religious, community clubs, associations, societies and Lodges..

    Until that law/regulation is passed nothing will ever be done about the corruption and bleeding dry practices against the population of these Islands.

    Demand it Cayman. Demand the MLA’s pass it….

    • Anonymous says:

      Your political, social, or religious beliefs have no more importance in a job that what flavor ice cream you like.

      It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer, doctor, accountant, OfReg employee or Board member, you simply need the qualifications and experience for the job. If you don’t have them then sorry, membership in something else is no reason to be given the job.

      Demanding that the LA pass a law setting job conditions unrelated to the job is a genuine dumbass idea.

      • Truth Hurts / Pig in the pen got hit says:

        Humm…..

        You sound like one of those who benefits from the fact that there is no law/regulation in place that can be used to monitor ties that bind individuals.

        Hence your part of the corruption that plagues or Island and will do ANYTHING to maintain the status quo.

        And yes it does have to do with everything, including ice cream. Hagen Daz or IGA…

        What you got in your freezer buddy….

      • Anonymous says:

        You do realise he/she is referring to the dodgy handshakes brigade and all what that “opaqueness” involves – fealty, the state within the state, and buttering (of the cement blocks!).

    • Anonymous says:

      That was in the Standards in Public Life Law. Alden alone would have done it, but he was descended on by the dozens if not hundreds to weaken the law. They amended it out. The SIPL used to require disclosure of details relating to “any political, trade, professional, fraternal or charitable association or organisation, registered or unregistered, to which there is a connection”. They stripped it all out. I can just think of people who would have gone to Alden and said ‘you’re in this organisation too – I’m the *insert senior civil service position here* in your ministry, are you sure you want us to reveal our ties?’ And no doubt they will all consider their fraternal associations do not rise to the catch-all level of any “other substantial interest whether of a pecuniary nature or not, which raise or may appear to raise a material conflict of interest”. So they will carry on pretending to be independent thinkers and doers while in fact pulling each other’s strings all day, week, month, year, decade, and so on and never disclose that this is what they are doing. Good thing we know anyway, so VOTE THEM OUT!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always liked Alee. Cutting through the B.S.

  22. Anonymous says:

    When his colleague, Gregg Anderson, appeared before PAC on Wednesday, he told the members that electricity bills have been lower since March and they would continue to fall. Anderson, who is the executive director for the regulation of electricity and water, said OfReg conducted an assessment and found consumers who use an average of 1,000 kilowatts per month had seen a drop of more than $40 in monthly bills.

    Did anyone really need to conduct an assessment to know that the price of oil had fallen? Hint. The monthly bills came down because the fuel factor charge came down.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Another square peg in a round hole!

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