The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has determined that the introduction of net neutrality regulation in The Bahamas “may adversely impact the sustainability of the electronic communications sector (ECS) in The Bahamas”.
URCA released the results of its consultation document, “URCA’s Preliminary Position on Net Neutrality and OTT (over-the-top) Services in The Bahamas”, earlier this week.
“While URCA remains of the view that net neutrality and the availability of OTT services can promote the furtherance of the ECSP objectives, URCA is cognizant of the risk and uncertainty related to the introduction of net neutrality regulation, and URCA is concerned that ex ante regulation may adversely impact the sustainability of the ECS in The Bahamas,” URCA said in its final position.
“Therefore, in the short to medium term, URCA will address breaches of the Communications Act relating to internet traffic using its ex post regulatory measures whilst monitoring the changing dynamic in the environment, with a view to revisiting this issue should it become appropriate.”
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites, while OTT services refer to applications and websites like Netflix and WhatsApp which deliver television and film content, as well as provide communication services without requiring users to subscribe to a traditional service provider.
“As it relates to OTT services, URCA remains of the view that a significant part of the response to the prevalence of OTTs should be the adoption by affected regulated entities of innovative strategies that embrace the natural but rapid changes in the technological environment while remaining profitable, as has historically occurred in response to other disruptive influences on the electronic communications market,” URCA noted.
“Also, URCA remains of the view that adaptive approaches are necessary to effectively advance the ECSP objectives especially as it relates to facilitating the availability of a wide range of content services.”
The consultation period was opened on April 13 and closed on May 14.
URCA received written responses from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), Cable Bahamas Ltd. (CBL), Be Aliv Ltd. (Aliv) and Facebook.
“URCA notes that the network operators (BTC, CBL and Aliv) are generally opposed to the introduction of ex ante regulations that would impose rules regarding net neutrality, especially the introduction of regulatory measures restricting network management practices such as blocking and throttling, and that the network operators all expressed a general preference for ex-post regulations,” the document said.
“The operators expressed the view that market forces would result in the furtherance of the ECSP objectives identified by URCA and argued that where market forces fail to further that objective, URCA could take ex-post regulatory action. In contrast to the position set forth by the network operators, Facebook, a content provider, encouraged URCA to impose regulations that would promote net neutrality. However, Facebook agreed with CBL/Aliv that URCA should address the regulatory considerations for net neutrality and OTT service separately.”
Facebook was the sole respondent that expressed its support for URCA creating an open internet and recommended that, “any policy introduced by URCA in regards to net neutrality and OTT services should avoid stifling the emergence of new, innovative products and services”.
“URCA is of the view that there may be cases where it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to allow service providers to manage their networks to avoid illegal activities, denial of service events and other disruptive acts (whether intentional or not) that lead to network inefficiencies,” URCA said.