URCA defends push for electronic communication sector outage reporting

URCA defends push for electronic communication sector outage reporting

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has defended its push for outage reporting from its electronic communications sector licensees, with Cable Bahamas Limited/Aliv arguing that outage reporting to a national regulatory authority is ‘an exception rather than a rule.’

Cable Bahamas/Aliv has also called on the regulator to demonstrate that such reporting would produce tangible benefits to the consumers that offset the cost imposed on its licensees.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), in its recent statements of results and final decision concerning its “Draft Outage Reporting and Mitigation Regulations for the Electronic Communications Sector in The Bahamas,” highlighted the responses of its licensees CBL/Aliv and BTC.

CBL/Aliv noted that it has been submitting outage reports to URCA for some time, and welcomed the opportunity to review this process. CBL/Aliv queried the value of outage reporting outside of office hours while URCA, during such time, cannot receive and process such reports.

“CBL/Aliv estimated that URCA will receive over seventy reports per day on outages if it were to proceed with its proposals emphasizing that URCA cannot process and act on such a high volume of reports. Further, such a volume of reports imposes a significant cost on Licensees, especially the preparation and submission of updates during unplanned outages. The opportunity costs of these reports are significant,” URCA noted.

CBL/Aliv also reasoned that licensees have strong commercial incentives to minimize outages to retain customers and revenues noting that if licensees’ networks are not functioning, customers will not spend money on electronic communications services and will move to licensees or services that provide better connectivity.

CBL/Aliv also noted that it did not consider URCA’s benchmarking exercise to be adequate evidence for the proposed regulations. Based on CBL/Aliv’s benchmarking exercise, it noted the majority of NRAs do not require any outage reporting. CBL/Aliv stated that it believes that outage reporting is an exception rather than a rule.

CBL/Aliv also stated that URCA should demonstrate that the reporting of outages to the NRA will produce tangible benefits to consumers that offset the cost imposed on Licensees and on URCA before it can go ahead with the proposed regulations. If further argued that URCA has not carried out any analysis to see whether the alleged increase in public concern over the reliability and quality of electronic communications services in The Bahamas is borne out in reality. It also stated that it does not believe that outages are becoming more frequent, adding that outages on Aliv’s mobile network are not increasing in number and, since 2020, have been mainly due to problems with the electricity supply.

BTC, for its part, expressed its support for the introduction of outage reporting requirements and related measures. However, BTC noted that such obligations and guidelines should be efficient and proportionate. According to BTC, most of the countries referenced in URCA’s benchmarking exercise, such as the US and Canada, are not directly comparable to The Bahamas. 

In its response URCA acknowledged that most of the benchmarked countries are not directly comparable to The Bahamas. In this regard, URCA clarifies that the purpose of URCA’s benchmarking exercise was to identify best practices on relevant regulations and policies in various countries to assist with the development of regulations suited for the local context.

Responding to CBL/Aliv, URCA said it does not derive much value from the current reporting regime. As such, URCA considered it necessary to update the regime to address the gaps and deficiencies and to improve the quality and value of information URCA obtains from Licensees in this regard. From URCA’s viewpoint, the Proposed Regulations are intended to supplement and improve the current regime as opposed to introducing a regime that is entirely foreign to the ECS.

URCA that CBL/Aliv had not demonstrated reliable evidence to URCA to substantiate its claim that Proposed Regulations would result in over 70 outage reports per day and impose a significant burden on licensees and URCA.

“If URCA were to accept the figures, URCA should be concerned about the number of outages. There would be 70 reportable outages per day. Such a volume of reportable outages would suggest that there are major network reliability and resilience concerns. As such, the proposed regulations are even more necessary to verify whether CBL/Aliv’s estimations are correct. Based on URCA’s observations of the country’s electronic communications sector, market forces alone do not appear to be sufficient to incentivize licensees to be transparent and accountable to URCA on network outages and to adopt measures to minimize the occurrence of outages,” URCA noted.

URCA also noted that it does not consider the absence of outage reporting requirements to the national regulatory authority in other Caribbean jurisdictions to be a reasonable argument to reject outage reporting to URCA. 

The regulator also noted that CBL/Aliv had not provided any empirical evidence in support of its argument that the proposed regulations would impose significant costs on licensees.