Regulator wants stiff fines for telecoms

Proposed changes to Cayman’s telecom regulations would significantly increase fines for phone, Internet and television companies from $25,000 to $500,000 for violating rules or requirements in their licenses. The amendments would also add new fines of up to $25,000 a day for continued violations.

Information Communications and Technology Authority Managing Director Alee Fa'amoe
Information Communications and Technology Authority Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe

The proposal for tougher penalties comes after numerous complaints last year to the Information and Communications Technology Authority about people not getting the Internet speeds they paid for.

“The idea was to not only give the Authority more teeth to enforce regulations, but to do so in a manner that avoided having to pursue criminal prosecutions via the courts,” said ICTA Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe. “The fines we have proposed as a change to our Law will cover all manner of transgressions by licensees.”

The amendments to the 2011 Information and Communications Technology Law were published in the government Gazette last week to be considered by the Legislative Assembly.

Complaints last year made their way to the Legislative Assembly, and at the time, Mr. Fa’amoe said the most troubling criticisms came from Class A banks and a healthcare facility. He said late last year, “We have lost millions of dollars of inward investment because of our lack of high-quality telecom infrastructure.”

When it comes to companies advertising faster rates than customers actually received, Mr. Fa’amoe said they “may need further adjustments to regulations in order for us to properly address it. But that would be just one of many issues the Authority plans to address with new consumer-focused regulations.”

The current 2011 version of the ICTA Law gives regulators the authority to fine telecom companies up to $25,000 for violating the terms of their licenses. Refusing to pay a fine could result in a telecom company losing its license.

Mr. Fa’amoe said last month that Internet connection speed issues had an impact on businesses and individuals. Some people who complained to members of the Legislative Assembly said they had paid for 10 Mbps connections but the actual speed was 10 percent of that.

“The current thinking is that, as a rule of thumb, any broadband service which falls below 80 percent of what the provider has contracted with the customer to provide is grounds for a complaint to the licensee and the ICTA, possibly followed up with an investigation, depending on what steps are taken by the provider to fix the problem,” he said.

Aside from the issues over speed, ICTA’s managing director also said that he was concerned about how few options there are for high-speed Internet in the eastern districts and the Sister Islands.

Telecom providers are required to serve the entire country.