Regulator calls for local Internet exchange

Cayman’s telecom regulator and Internet service providers are in talks to set up local Internet Exchange Points in the islands to reduce the impact of outages on the undersea cables that connect Cayman to the rest of the digital world.

The Information and Communications Technology Authority issued a statement this week explaining that it is working with Cayman’s Internet service providers to set up a local Internet exchange point to route traffic between on-island servers so they will not have to go off island when both the sender and receiver are in Cayman.

“The Authority has been regularly meeting with its licensees to discuss establishing a local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) which will largely reduce the effects of outages affecting ISPs and their respective customers’ connectivity quality, as well as add further layers of security for local communications,” said Sonji Myles, ICTA’s acting deputy director industry affairs.

Highlighting an early morning outage on Monday, Mr. Myles said, “The number of customers currently affected by this outage could have been reduced to zero if a full functioning IXP was already in place.”

That outage, the regulator said, was caused by an equipment failure in Boca Raton, where one of the undersea cables connects Cayman to the mainland.

”Flow’s Julie Hutton said Flow customers were not affected by Monday’s outage because the company connects to two separate undersea cables.

She said, “Flow has been working closely with the ICTA along with other ISPs on establishing a local Internet exchange point.

“Contrary to the ICTA’s assertions, the establishment of a local IXP will not prevent the same problem from reoccurring. A local IXP, once established, will only allow access to locally hosted traffic between local Internet Service Providers,” she explained. “The overwhelming majority of content is hosted off-island and will require international connectivity to access it.”

Digicel Cayman CEO Martin Bould said his company supports the push for an exchange. He said, “We are … supportive in principle of the implementation of a Local Internet Exchange and in fact sent a comprehensive letter to the ICTA on Nov. 3, 2016 stating this, as well as highlighting a number of concerns which should be addressed, by the ICTA, prior to moving forward.”

In an email, he said ICTA should enforce a 2015 rule requiring a similar exchange for direct voice interconnection for fixed and mobile phone networks.

Telecom companies have taken a beating over the past year by lawmakers airing customer complaints during Legislative Assembly sessions, focusing on Internet speeds that consumers say were slower than advertised.

There were also several major outages for Internet and phone customers.

New rules for telecoms require the companies to report serious outages to regulators. And a new law passed in the spring gives regulators more teeth to impose civil fines on licensees without taking them to court.

The recent amendments to the ICTA Law give regulators the ability to fine telecoms $25,000 to half a million dollars for violating the terms of their licenses.

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