— Alee Fa’Amoe, managing director, Information Communications and Technology Authority
The above declaration, made by the head of the Cayman Islands’ telecommunications regulator, should give reason for pause and reflection.
The story, appearing in Thursday’s Compass, on our country’s difficulties with Internet service, really covers two distinct topics: “truth in advertising” about connection speeds, and concerns that are more general — and in our opinion, far more serious — about the quality and reliability of Cayman’s telecom infrastructure.
The former problem is something that lawmakers will attempt to tackle through measures, such as fines and/or legislation to allow dissatisfied consumers to switch providers more easily. We won’t focus in this editorial about the wisdom of those strategies, other than to say that in general we favor free-market incentives over government punishments.
Of greater concern to us is Mr. Fa’Amoe’s observation that, overall, Cayman’s telecom infrastructure is lagging behind the demands of potential investors. This is not something that the government can hope to address overnight through amended statutes or new regulations.
Rather, our Internet issues comprise one facet of an overarching quandary that calls into question the very economic future of our islands: In light of our leaders’ unwillingness to reduce the size and cost of the country’s sprawling civil service, the only viable way forward (in our opinion) is to increase dramatically the flow of revenues into government’s coffers, which means significant, sustained growth in Cayman’s population and development.
How, though, can Cayman hope to attract and accommodate all of these new residents (taxpayers) — when our existing infrastructure is inadequate for the needs of the people and businesses who are already here?
As Mr. Fa’Amoe says, “The fact that Cayman has to turn away investors who would like to move their companies here but who can’t, because the quality of our Internet services is simply not good enough, is very disturbing.”
In the same vein, Health City Cayman Islands developer Gene Thompson highlights two specific IT issues that concern the folks running Grand Cayman’s most-ambitious and most-promising economic diversification initiative, and, therefore, should concern all of us:
First, “the lack of off-island diversity” in that only two undersea cables connect Grand Cayman to global information networks. Mr. Thompson said they believe there should be at least three.
Second, that “much of the data/telecom infrastructure is pole-mounted, and this creates vulnerability in the event of a hurricane and also in the event a pole is hit or knocked over.”
Now, discussions of telecommunications technology can veer into the obscure quite quickly, but Cayman’s inadequate infrastructure should be apparent to our readers who brave our congested roads during rush hour (especially when there’s flooding … meaning after every moderate rainfall), who travel near the dangerous George Town landfill, or who must avail themselves of Cayman’s overburdened public health system.
Lest Cayman’s aspirations toward greatness impair your vision, keep in mind that we are a society that has failed even to create a centralized sewage system. And don’t get us started on the state of Cayman’s government-run schools.
In brief, the public infrastructure of Cayman is simply not sufficient to meet the needs of today, much less the demands of tomorrow.
For future expansion to take place, Cayman must first lay the technological, intellectual and physical groundwork. The key questions, as usual, are: Do we as a country have the vision and necessary political resolve? And, of equal importance, do we have the money and, if not, how are we going to finance our future?