OfReg rules for video broadcast, WiFi licensing proposed

Draft plan includes exemptions for internet cafes, WiFi hot spots, hotels and B&Bs

Draft proposals to regulate information, communications and technology services in Cayman seek to exempt certain uses of wireless internet signals and internet streaming services from licensing requirements.

Internet cafes and hotels would be exempt from WiFi licensing requirements under the draft rules, which were released on Sept. 19 for public comment.

OfReg, Cayman’s utilities and commodities regulator, is seeking public feedback on the proposals until 5 p.m. on Oct. 19, according to notices published on its website.

According to the draft that was circulated, the types of information communications technology (ICT) services requiring a license include telephony, television services, sound broadcasting and internet services.

However, the proposed regulations would set exemptions for certain types of services based on where they operate.

For instance, anyone holding an accommodation license under the Tourism Law and who does not provide internet services outside of those licensed premises, such as hotels or B&Bs, would not be required to obtain a separate WiFi operating license.

Similarly, internet cafes or WiFi hot spots providing access to the internet “where there is no fee associated with obtaining such access, and who maintain minimum security standards” as defined by OfReg, would not be required to obtain a license.

The rules also seek to implement licenses for “video on demand” services – streaming video material in the Cayman Islands to someone who has subscribed to that service.

The licensing requirement for video on demand is exempted if the video stream is delivered over the “public internet” or the video material involved is television programming, according to the draft regulations.

The former Information and Communication Technology Authority, now operating under the OfReg banner, most recently issued an enforcement notice under the former ICTA Law in 2011 regulating the use of information and communications services.

It states: “The authority has … determined that all ICT services that use an ICT network to provide services to the public, whether or not for a fee or for commercial profit, are required to be licensed …. ”

The topic of licensing for WiFi services was raised earlier this year following a notice from OfReg indicating that a number of businesses charging customers to use their wireless internet service should be licensed by government.

“There are currently no WiFi hot spot providers licensed by the office to offer such service within the Cayman Islands,” an OfReg notice issued in February stated. Government ICT officials told the Cayman Compass in May that at least nine companies were “illegally” charging customers for wireless internet access.

However, OfReg has not taken any enforcement action since then and has acknowledged that current rules set out under Cayman’s Information and Communications Technology Law may not reflect “reality and the rapidly changing landscape of technology.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin said in August that his coalition government would not support any new licensing fees for businesses that provide wireless access as a free service to their customers.

“We campaigned on reducing bureaucracy and to reduce the cost of doing business in this country,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The imposition of fees and taxes are a matter for the Cabinet of these islands, regardless of whether it is Cayman Airways or OfReg or the Water Authority.

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