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Communication by Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham On the Sale of 51% of Bahamas Telecommunications Company To Cable & Wireless Communications, Plc. (CWC)
At the conclusion of my communication I will table the following documents related to the privatization of The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and the sale of 51% of the shares in BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications, Plc
Contribution to Debate on the Communications Act 2009 by Education Minister, the Hon. Carl W. Bethel, M.P., 4th May 2009
Even as the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) investigates that network outage that resulted in the loss of service to thousands of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) customers earlier this year, it is also looking into a recent "decrease" in the quality of service offered by the telecoms company.
The National Security Agency’s monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency’s activities.
The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.’s phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA’s operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.
Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) CEO Leon Williams called on the government to lead the way toward The Bahamas becoming the hub for regional information and communications technology (ICT), in his recent address to ICT professionals at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner's second annual National Training Symposium in Nassau.
The symposium theme, "The seventh data protection principle: Personal data security offline and online", is one of the eight data protection principals that guide the industry.
Williams was one of seven speakers and an honoree of the data protection commissioner for achieving 46 stellar years of service in the telecommunications industry. Others honored were Felix N. Stubbs, past president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce; June Collie, director of Department of Information Technology; Raymond Wells, deputy director of information technology at the National Insurance board, and Detective Sargent Dale Strachan, Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Williams spoke to the question, "Does The Bahamas have the necessary IT infrastructure to become a premier data relocation jurisdiction?"
He answered, "not yet" on his subject matter, but he envisions a day when investments will be made to build the country's information and communications technology (ICT) sector to full capacity. He said that The Bahamas must "dare to dream" to reach its full potential as an IT and data hub in the region.
"I dreamed last night of something called digiBahamas," said Williams.
"In the dream, the 21st century information age forces leaders to re-think the present mode and its ability to sustain the economy without exploiting the digital dividend in the industry of ICT. My vision is that the government of The Bahamas would diversify the economy, as it did with tourism and financial services. It would implant ICT as the third economic pillar by making the Bahamas the hub for regional ICT."
Williams believes that the foundation for this vision already exists, if resources and opportunities are utilized correctly.
"We must use our proximity to the U.S. mainland to our advantage," the CEO urged.
"We have at our disposal the existing four fiber optic submarine cables between The Bahamas and the U.S.: The Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS) network connecting us to 14 Caribbean countries and our Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network International (BDSNi) connecting 14 Bahamian islands and Haiti."
Williams suggested a multi-pronged approach to achieve his vision.
"We should establish ourselves as an internet exchange point (IXP); establish data centers and create incentives to attract manufacturers; revise our ICT regulations and laws, and capitalize on our skilled labor force. There is no shortage of Bahamian engineers but we must find ways to counteract the brain drain and attract them to come home."
An IXP is infrastructure where internet service providers (ISPs) exchange internet traffic between their servers.
Warning that the country may be falling behind, the CEO explained: "Many countries in the Caribbean have already created local IXPs; we are falling behind. The IXP, like our regulating body URCA, should be created by the providers. Having this structure will save money for the ISPs and the consumer, as the bandwith to send data to the U.S. and back would no longer be required. Furthermore, it is more secure, so the data from our country stays in country. The major benefit is national security."
Williams related that, in a meeting with Cable Bahamas Chairman Anthony Butler the previous week, they enjoyed a meeting of minds and objectives with regard to national interests and he surmised seeing more cooperative actions in coming years.
"Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco have anywhere from $45 billion to $137 billion, if we could attract companies of this magnitude to build manufacturing hubs here, we could do away with tax structures like VAT and address the country's debt."
Speaking further on data security, Williams reiterated the need for a sovereign, local IXP. He explained that currently Bahamian data is at the mercy of foreign entities.
"Recently, we talk a lot about the NSA, the National Security Agency, but all of our data passes through Miami currently. Since 2011 there has been something called the Patriot Act, where no ICT company can have an encryption that the NSA cannot access. With a local IXP, we limit data access to Bahamian eyes."
He also stressed personal responsibility in data security and told users to beware of overshare in the digital age, warning that data mining by international companies and governments could endanger personal information.
"Every time you use an app to count your steps, for example, you tell Google, or whomever, where you are, you must ask, 'Who else are you telling by extension'? We must stop putting so much blame on law enforcement, because no matter what they do, they can't protect your data better than you."
Cable Bahamas Ltd. has implemented a major increase in its international connectivity to the rest of the world as part of its ongoing network optimization plans. On Monday, May 13 it boosted its capacity between The Bahamas and its primary and secondary connection points to the global Internet in the United States by over 220 per cent, or a more than six-fold increase since its undersea fiber was launched over ten years ago.
On April 22, Cable Bahamas formally launched an increase in subscriber bandwidth speed between 500 and 1,000 per cent, moving its former speed levels of 3, 6 and 9 megabits per second for residential subscribers to 15, 30 and 50 megabits per second respectively. It also introduced a new speed level of 70 megabits per second for residential customers, and up to 500 megabits per second for commercial establishments. This was the first time broadband speeds of these levels have been available in The Bahamas.
Since that launch, Cable Bahamas has seen an increase in Internet data usage of 20 per cent. "We expected that our subscribers would begin to place greater demands on our network as we opened up new speeds to them," said Cable Bahamas Director of Network Operations Oswald Dean. "And that is exactly what has happened. Our customers have had such a great experience with their new speeds that we saw a 20 per cent jump in Internet data usage in the first three weeks. They love being able to more quickly and reliably access services that need more speed, like video streaming, video chat and more demanding business applications," Dean said.
According to Head of Marketing and Product Manager for the REVON Internet product David Burrows, "Cable Bahamas is in the forefront of enabling and maintaining our country's vital links for commerce and trade." He continued, "Over the last year we have been delivering an average 23 terabytes of data per month through our network. Since the launch of our new speeds this has increased to over 28 terabytes per month. That increasing demand for traffic throughput was the motivating factor behind the move to increase the international bandwidth."
Burrows explained that The Bahamas' communication link to the rest of the world is as important to the country's existence as is air and sea travel. "Ships bring us food and commodities that we need to survive, while planes bring visitors that boost our tourist economy. Today, so much of our lives are now dependent on how we connect to the rest of the world that our economy would be severely hindered without that robust communications link."
He further emphasized that, while many residents are focused on their own home and personal Internet uses, a reliable data connection is the foundation of local commerce, enabling everything we do from education, international finance, hospitality, healthcare, emergency services, retail, travel and shipping. "Data and information is the 'new currency,'" Burrows said. "As such, we must ensure that the networks that facilitate these critical services are designed, engineered, sufficiently scaled and reliable to meet present and, more importantly, future demands."
Burrows referred to a report by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), which highlighted the importance of fast, reliable connectivity for any country's economy. "We know that broadband connectivity is now considered basic infrastructure, and this delivers important economic and social benefits," Burrows said. "In every country in the world, these networks are now just as important as transport, power or water networks. I n fact, a broadband network like ours is the lifeline of almost every area of our economy. It is vital for The Bahamas to have this infrastructure as an island nation in the 21st century to stay ahead of our regional competitors."
Dean explained that the off-island bandwidth boost was a strategic progression in the company's network evolution plans. "This increase in our international 'pipe' will ensure that we are always ahead of the demands of our consumers," he said.
The work required to put the necessary infrastructure in place began almost six months ago, and included upgrading key transport equipment and new training for more than eight engineers and technicians on the team responsible for the network.
Vice President of Information and Telecom Systems Blaine Schafer explained, "This is the result of what we call 'capacity planning'. We project our subscribers needs and plan accordingly. As people rely more and more on the broadband speeds we provide, they will start to consume more capacity. Our job is to anticipate and respond to that demand."
Internet traffic management company Sandvine has been assisting Cable Bahamas in its efforts to monitor, manage and respond to the constantly changing demands on its network.
"As the communications market and Internet usage have evolved, service providers such as Cable Bahamas look for ways to improving the subscriber experience," said Tom Donnelly, Sandvine's chief operating officer. "Cable Bahamas' management team has been dedicated to the optimization of the Internet experience for their subscribers, and has deployed Sandvine's Business Intelligence solutions to help understand and respond to how subscribers are experiencing the network, usage trends, and what service tiers may be attractive in the future."
Donnelly continued, "this gives Cable Bahamas the ability to benchmark themselves against global Internet phenomena trends." Sandvine's Business Intelligence products forecast long-term trends in consumer experience and resource utilization so that operators can proactively decide where to allocate resources and spending. Sandvine's Traffic Management uses network data to apply business rules in real-time, protecting subscribers' quality of experience under all network conditions.
Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) will not be required to unbundle its broadband Internet and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) services for the foreseeable future, according to Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) Director of Policy and Regulation Stephen Bereaux.
Speaking on Guardian Talk Radio talk show "Morning Blend" with Dwight Strachan, Bereaux suggested that the bundling of the web-based TV service, which requires a BTC broadband connection, is necessary in the short to medium term in order to encourage competition in the pay-TV market.
"There's a cost to deliver broadband to a home and the nature of BTC's product is that one cannot be delivered without the other. It's not the same as cable in that sense.
"If we told them as someone without any customers that they must provide this broadband system for free in order to deliver your TV system, it would be uneconomic from a market perspective and they wouldn't do it," said Bereaux.
While acknowledging that Cable Bahamas is required to unbundle its cable TV and Internet services, Bereaux said BTC's bundling is a moot concern for the time being because its IPTV service is not offered in any areas that had access to cable broadband, stating that the impact of BTC bundling its services did not "deny" people cable TV.
"Much of the way URCA regulates is based on regulating most heavily the operators who have significant market power in a particular market. Within pay-TV, Cable Bahamas has significant market power (SMP); BTC does not.
"Currently BTC only has a handful of customers, the services are really only available on Bimini for now, and at the rate that BTC has indicated it will [progress] it will likely be a long time before BTC has SMP in pay TV, if ever," said Bereaux.
Cable Bahamas currently controls over 92 percent of the country's pay TV market. However, Bereaux said there is no concrete threshold of market share that BTC would have to cross before URCA revisited its stance on the matter.
BTC officially launched its IPTV services in Bimini last week, which provides digital channels through a broadband Internet connection. AT&T, one of the world's leading IPTV providers, has touted the flexibility of the technology compared to "traditional" cable or satellite TV.
BTC CEO Leon Williams earlier said that BTC will conduct beta testing with roughly 100 Biminites before expanding to other small family island communities without access to cable TV in 2015. To date, there is no projected date to introduce the service to New Providence.
You may have heard the latest business buzzword "the Internet of things" lately but what does it mean? The Internet started in the 1980s when computers started talking to other computers, however the "Internet of things" or "IOT" refers to "things" talking to other "things" via the Internet without human input.
Some may say the future is upon us; smart devices connecting to the Internet make our lives easier by allowing us to communication with our lighting, thermostats, appliances, entertainment and security systems. Furthermore, telemedicine systems which monitor patients with cardiac and diabetic conditions can save our lives by collecting data through sensors and sending the information to our doctors using mobile technology.
Customers still prefer to deal with people and despite the glut of information available, even the millennial generation consider the advice of friends and family above all when making consumer choices. Nevertheless, as the IOT rolls on, the future of business will bring increased connectivity and worldwide integration of information. Consequently customers will expect more clarity of information and expect constant connectivity to their service providers.
So what does IOT mean for insurance? Predictive analytics is the basis of how insurance companies decide how to treat customers: Information on people and their past behavior is the greatest indicator of what to expect in the future. Whereas the gut instinct of an underwriter still plays a part, many decisions are made automatically by a computerized system. Already, some insurers in the United States are using telematic devices to monitor driving data. For insurers of commercial truck drivers, the dashboard camera may be upgraded to the drivers wearing google glass to supervise their attention on the road. As a result, careful drivers are rewarded with lower premiums and risky situations are monitored and controlled.
Some insurers already stipulate the use of burglar and fire monitoring equipment as well as the air quality and humidity controls in buildings, particularly when it comes to periodically unoccupied premises. Smart home technology and monitoring can certainly reward good customers with less restrictive cover and perhaps a reduction in premium.
The possibilities are limitless in the mind's eye. Perhaps health insurers will monitor lifestyle choices such as exercise and food choices via chips in your treadmill and refrigerator. Smart clothing can send data making sure physiotherapy is being complied with. Carpets may detect when a person falls and air quality can be monitored for mold.
The increased collection, analysis and monitoring of data has its advantages but there is also tremendous responsibility. When following the IOT trend, insurers and other businesses alike will have to make sure that network and data security is paramount. There will also be an overwhelming amount of data that will be produced, stored and analyzed and businesses will need to increase their capacity in order to manage as those excel sheets just won't do.
IOT overall will have a positive impact on the insurance industry, with the dynamism of pricing for the individual risk and the extreme reduction in claims and loss control. However, with such streamlined automation reducing the human element of error, we may end up living in a world where risk is so diminished that insurance itself may become obsolete. Only time will tell.
o Stephanie Cleare is a fully licensed and qualified account executive at Tavares & Higgs Insurance with 12 years experience in the Bahamian insurance industry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cable Bahamas Ltd announced today that it is implementing a major increase in its international connectivity to the rest of the world as part of its ongoing network optimisation plans. On Monday, May 13 it will boost its capacity between The Bahamas and its primary and secondary connection points to the global Internet in the United States by over 220 per cent, or a more than six-fold increase since its undersea fibre was launched over ten years ago. On April 22, Cable Bahamas formally launched an increase in subscriber bandwidth speed between 500 and 1,000 per cent, moving its former speed levels of 3, 6 and 9 megabits per second for residential subscribers to 15, 30 and 50 megabits per second respectively.