A legal snag of sorts has come up in Cayman’s attempts to install a closed circuit television camera system in the public right of way.
But government officials said they don’t expect the issue to delay the planned installation of the first batch of cameras much further beyond the last week of March.
“Maybe only a few days, up to a week, not months or anything like that,” said Eric Bush, deputy chief officer of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which is spearheading the CCTV project. “Of course, it has to pass by a majority vote in the Legislative Assembly.”
The issue will require a change in Cayman’s Information and Communications Technology Law that is expected to lead to the Caribbean Utilities Company forming a telecommunications subsidiary.
According to Mr. Bush, proposed legislation has already been approved by Cabinet and will be heading to the full Legislative Assembly for approval soon.
The Cayman Islands Government already has a developed data network that will allow it to transmit images captured by CCTV cameras back to storage areas either through wireless communications or telecom lines.
However, that network doesn’t reach everywhere on Grand Cayman and the ability to use CUC electric lines in some areas to transmit those images would help keep costs down for the project.
The problem is CUC is not considered a telecommunications company under the ICTA Law, and it would have to be licensed under that legislation if its existing power lines were to be used in this manner.
Such a licence typically requires telecom companies to pay six per cent of their annual revenues to the regulator, the Information and Communications Technology Authority.
“Right now, that means they would have to pay six per cent of their profits for everything, including electric service,” Mr. Bush said.
A proposed exemption in the amendment to the ICTA Law would let CUC avoid that fee by forming a subsidiary, which Mr. Bush said would be known as data link, to handle transmissions for the government’s CCTV project.
For that consideration, government will pay “a negligible fee” to the newly formed CUC subsidiary for the use of its power lines for CCTV image transmission.
“We’re still negotiating those figures, it’s less than $20 a month for each attachment,” Mr. Bush said.
CUC officials were contacted for comment on this story, but declined to speak on it immediately.
The public CCTV system as proposed by government would have approximately 350 cameras operating once it’s complete. However, many of those cameras will be contained in clusters known as pod”, so the number of actual camera locations will be around 110.
“If we have 75 attachments, let’s say, that’s $1,500 a month [government would have to pay],” Mr. Bush said by way of example.
Assuming the changes to the ICTA Law are approved by legislators, a licensing process will have to proceed between CUC and members of the ICTA board and Mr. Bush said the use of CUC infrastructure can only be approved for government’s purposes by the regulatory board.
Some 167 closed-circuit television cameras were scheduled to start going up at 60 different locations around Grand Cayman in late March.
The installation process isn’t expected to be complete until June, but Mr. Bush has said the cameras should start working once they are installed.
The cameras will only monitor public areas and will not be allowed to surveil private property.
CCTV cameras actually covers three different types of cameras including fixed video cameras, pan-tilt-zoom video cameras and automatic number plate readers, which take photos of licence plates.
All three will be installed at the various locations identified by police, which will be clearly marked with signage indicating the cameras are in use.
A fourth type, speed cameras, have not been purchased and will not be installed in the initial phase of the CCTV project. Cayman’s Traffic Law would have to be changed before those devices could legally be used on local roads.