Study: Cayman broadband among most expensive

Cayman has the third most expensive broadband internet in the Caribbean and the 12th most expensive in the world, with an average price of US$158 per month for services, according to a study released Tuesday from researchers at the U.K.-based Cable.co.uk.

The rankings were a slight improvement from a similar study conducted last year by the same organization. That 2017 study had Cayman ranked fifth most expensive globally and the second most expensive in the Caribbean, with an average price of US$175.

The cheapest broadband of 195 countries listed in the study is the Ukraine, at US$5 per month, and the most expensive is Mauritania at US$768 per month, according to the study.

Saint Martin has the cheapest broadband in the Caribbean at an average package price of about US$24, while Haiti was ranked the most expensive at US$207. Other comparable jurisdictions included the British Virgin Islands (US$141 per month) and Antigua and Barbuda (US$177).

Cable.co.uk stated that the Caribbean has some of the most expensive internet services in the world, due mostly to its geography.

“Caribbean nations and territories sit almost universally in the most expensive end of the table, largely thanks to their problematic geography,” the study stated. “Caribbean nations have been more hesitant in adopting fixed-line broadband solutions, largely favouring mobile broadband and 3G/LTE solutions as a means to get online.”

Cable.co.uk ranked Cayman as the fastest internet in the Caribbean last year with an average speed of 13.15 megabits per second (Mbps), but the organization has not released an updated speed study yet this year.

After last year’s studies were released, local telecommunications providers disputed their results.

“I don’t think the studies accurately reflect what we’re capable of,” Flow Interim Managing Director Danny Tathum said at the time, saying that his company offers speeds of 15 Mbps for $106 per month.

Likewise, Logic and C3 offer similar packages on their websites.

“I laughed at the study because I wish I was making US$170 per customer,” said Logic CEO Rob McNabb. “We’re selling 5-, 10-, 15-Mbps packages – all under $100.”

Nevertheless, government is pushing to improve services, with the goal of having broadband internet universally available on the island.

To that end, Premier Alden McLaughlin said in March that government was planning on building its own fiber network and making the telecoms companies pay for it.

Around the same time of that announcement, the territory’s telecoms regulator, the Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg), launched a process to determine what mandatory internet speeds should be offered by Cayman’s telecommunications companies, and by when those speeds should be available. OfReg said it would then determine how the speeds should be provided.

OfReg said in March that it planned on making a determination on these issues by the end of September. However, that timeline has not been met, and the telecommunications companies strongly oppose OfReg’s proposals.

When the initial consultation was launched in March, OfReg proposed to force all telecoms companies to offer broadband internet access services to all residents of the Cayman Islands, with at least one of their broadband service plans offering an unlimited data allowance. The regulator’s proposed definition for “broadband” is download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps or higher.

OfReg proposed to set a three-year timeline for telecoms companies to meet these requirements.

The regulator’s proposals were not met favorably by the telecommunications companies, which objected for a litany of reasons in a public response document posted on OfReg’s website.

For instance, Flow criticized OfReg for putting the “cart before the horse” by mandating internet speeds without first formulating a plan for how they would be delivered.

Flow also stated that OfReg’s speed requirements would be much more stringent than those in other developed countries.