Despite opposition from the nation’s leading internet service providers (ISPs) on various aspects of a localized buildout of internet exchange points (IXPs), the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) final decision on the establishment of a framework is that further discussions are needed by stakeholders to reach a general consensus.
IXPs function as centralized clearing houses for organizations involved in the internet to peer and exchange data traffic, and are also an important infrastructure for delivering local digital content, according to URCA.
URCA began consultations last year to promote public awareness of the contributions IXPs can make to the development of the internet and digital economy and to ensure the regulatory framework is favorable for IXPs to operate successfully in The Bahamas.
The five companies involved in the consultative process included Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited (BTC), Cable Bahamas Limited (CBL), Last Mile Communications (LMC), Secure Hosting Solutions (SHS) and Cloud Carib.
“URCA was not surprised by the general approach taken by BTC and CBL in their responses to the consultation document. As a general point, considerable evidence exists to support the contention that incumbents, in URCA’s region and elsewhere, often opposed the buildout of IXPs due to a perceived IXP threat to their commercial position,” the final decision paper states.
“URCA is equally cognizant that a previous attempt to introduce IXP technology in The Bahamas was unsuccessful. Aside from SHS’ stated reason above, URCA considers that mistrust, a lack of collaboration and having a competitive advantage are also potential reasons for the opposition by some networks.”
There are currently no IXPs in The Bahamas and local internet service providers route locally destined internet protocol traffic between their networks through an intermediary switching facility in Miami, Florida and back.
URCA maintained that while broadband access and usage in The Bahamas have improved considerably, the use of the internet to fuel business innovation and service delivery in both the private and public sectors locally remains a challenge.
URCA is cognizant that a previous attempt to introduce IXP technology in The Bahamas was unsuccessful.
“For context, it bears repeating that the IXP-related benefits identified by URCA are tied to the government’s aspirations for digital economy and transformation in The Bahamas. Chiefly, these include the initiatives that catalyze the internet and digital economy in the ECS policy, including establishment of a tech or development hub in Grand Bahama and digital transformation in the delivery of essential public services. These initiatives are expected to generate both direct and indirect benefits over the medium-to long-term,” URCA states.
The next steps, according to URCA, is that a working group is set up to facilitate further discussions and consensus on IXP governance and operational factors among stakeholders.
URCA noted, however, that companies involved in the internet may hold such discussions independent of URCA.