Fines for phone, Internet and television providers in Cayman will increase from $25,000 to $500,000 for violating their licenses and telecom rules under new rules passed in a second reading at the Legislative Assembly on Sunday.
The amendments to the Information and Communications Technology Authority Law also give the regulator the power to fine a telecom up to $25,000 a day for ongoing violations.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts, presenting the law to the Legislative Assembly this week, said the new fines “will get the attention of the licensees.”
Telecoms have come under increased scrutiny over service outages and customer complaints about not getting the Internet speeds they were promised.
ICTA Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe told the Cayman Compass recently, “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.”
“The fines we have proposed as a change to our law will cover all manner of transgressions by licensees,” he said.
Mr. Tibbetts told his colleagues at the Legislative Assembly that the new fines are the first of several changes expected this year to give the telecoms regulator more powers for consumer protection.
He said ICTA is developing new advertising guidelines to prevent false or misleading advertising. Mr. Tibbetts said members of the Legislative Assembly can expect to see new consumer protection legislation gazetted by the end of this month.
Mr. Tibbetts said that for Cayman to be competitive in the global financial services industry, “reliable, high-quality telecommunications is a must.”
Complaints over Internet speeds made their way to the Legislative Assembly last year. Mr. Fa’amoe said at the time that complaints from a healthcare facility and Class A banks were the most troubling. “We have lost millions of dollars of inward investment because of our lack of high-quality telecom infrastructure,” he said.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau told the Compass last month that in a survey of members, asked to identify issues with infrastructure in Cayman, “Internet speeds and access topped the list.”
Mr. Tibbetts said telecoms have had “almost two dozen major outages in almost as many months.”
“In light of the disturbing number of outages,” Mr. Tibbetts said, ICTA is drafting legislation related to keeping essential telecom equipment on island.
Mr. Tibbetts said ICTA issued its first fines that he knew of earlier this year. The unnamed telecoms company did not report the reason for a 911 outage to regulators, and the Authority fined the company $75,000 for violating the terms of its license.
Mr. Tibbetts said the company paid the fine quickly and praised ICTA and the Authority’s leadership for acting quickly in response to the outage.
“Unfortunately, in the past, the leadership was very slow to act on such issues,” Mr. Tibbetts said of people who had been in charge of the Authority earlier. “Licensees have become [accustomed] to a lack of enforcement.”
“Those days are over,” Mr. Tibbetts noted.
Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo also complimented the new leadership at the Authority. He said, “There’s definitely a change at the Information and Communications Technology Authority.”
The planning minister said he hopes the new daily fines for ongoing violations will help keep disputes out of the courts by allowing fines to accrue if telecoms sue government and allow violations to continue.
The daily fines, Mr. Tibbetts hopes, will “cause every licensee to think twice about using the court system to draw out decisions.”
If the case is decided in government’s favor, Mr. Tibbetts said, the fine would have continued while a judge could hear the case and make a decision.