Cayman’s infrastructure requirements have been frequently highlighted.
Paul Byles says Cayman’s strengths lie in its professional infrastructure to support tech companies.
“The country boasts some of the best legal, accounting, compliance and finance professionals anywhere in the world. We now need to reinvest in our tech infrastructure to ensure that it meet the world class standards. So, I would say that’s a key area for improvement.”
The Strategic Economic Advisory Council last year concluded that Cayman should create the fastest, best and cheapest internet that is accessible by everyone.
Better latency would also align with the needs of high-tech companies to set up in Cayman.
The council once again noted the idea of a third subsea internet cable. While an additional, new connection is not expected to improve much in terms of speed, higher capacity at a lower price and redundancy is something that large technology company may want to see.
Meanwhile, Cable & Wireless, the owner of the Cayman Jamaica Fiber System (CJFS) and the local member of the consortium that owns and operates the Maya 1 subsea cable, which respectively connect Cayman to Jamaica and Miami, in the past has defended its investments into the internet infrastructure against suggestions that these connections were nearing the end of their life.
Choice and the ability to easily switch providers are other factors that could help drive internet costs down, but they require both greater deregulation and stronger regulatory enforcement than in the past.
In its Strategic Policy Statement for the years 2022 to 2024, government mentions its plans to build a modern infrastructure, including the provision of funding “for the implementation of a new underwater communications cable ensure Cayman remains connected to the world”.
But GRADA’s Taylor says a third cable alone will not be enough, adding that in contrast to the financial services sector, Cayman is still lacking some of the foundational developments and capabilities.
“There isn’t the deregulation or active regulation, however, you want to look at it, on sort of the foundational aspects of technology like bandwidth, power, intellectual property.”
Rather than invest in a subsea cable, government should spend the money to create the regulatory environment and complete the deregulation of the telecom industry and establish a dedicated telecommunications regulatory body capable of dealing with billion-dollar companies, Taylor says.
Meanwhile, some improvements that were supposed to be made have not fully happened.
Earlier this year, SALT Wireless received the license to establish an internet exchange point (IXP) in Cayman. The venture is operated on a cost-basis as a non-profit and up and running.
IXPs are physical locations with the technical infrastructure to exchange internet traffic between the different networks of internet service providers. This eliminates the need for internet traffic between local providers to travel all the way to Miami before it is routed back to Cayman.
Local peering will therefore lower the utilisation of the subsea cables and could in theory lead to more bandwidth for less money. It would also add redundancy to the local infrastructure.
However, of the local internet service providers only Digicel has connected to the IXP.
Despite a clear mandate from government, it appears the regulator OfReg has left it to internet service providers to choose whether or not to participate in local peering.
SALT Wireless founder Blair Lilford says: “It’s great to talk about blockchain, it’s great to talk about all these other things that we can do, but if we don’t get our core infrastructure in place, like subsea cable, like local fibre, like an IXP, then all the rest of it is for nought. There’s no point.”
Outside of Cayman’s infrastructure requirements, Cayman’s legal and regulatory intellectual property framework needs to be updated to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology sector.
TechCayman’s Thompson notes that Cayman’s IP laws need some strengthening, for instance to recognise digital currency. For tech companies to base their intellectual property on island, the environment has to further mature, he says, adding that work with the government on upgrading some of the IP laws is ongoing.