URCA issues final determination on wholesale broadband internet offers from BTC and CBL

URCA issues final determination on wholesale broadband internet offers from BTC and CBL

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has found it necessary that communications providers Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Cable Bahamas offer a wider range of bandwidth to other licensed operators (OLO).

URCA made the determination in its review of draft wholesale broadband internet offers from both the providers.

In September 2020, URCA issued a final determination on its review of wholesale broadband access services and in that document, it determined that regulation of price and non-price terms was needed for the point of presence-based (PoP-based) wholesale dedicated internet access (WDIA) services offered by BTC and Cable Bahamas Limited CBL to other licensed operators offering retail broadband services to their own customers.

URCA commenced a public consultation on the draft offers on February 28 of this year and received responses from Coakster Wireless Limited, Common Law Center and Wicom Bahamas Limited during the first round of consultation, with only BTC making an additional submission during the second round.

Regarding the requests for lower bandwidth services, URCA said it had considered the specific arguments put forward by Coakster regarding the need for OLOs to scale up their bandwidth requirement as their business grows.

“URCA finds BTC’s claims that 500Mbps should be a lower limit for WDIA services and that services below 100Mbps should not be classified as wholesale services to be unsubstantiated and confusing,” the regulator said.

“BTC has not explained why it considers this to be justified , and URCA considers that OLOs’ historic use of relatively low bandwidth WDIA services as an input to the provision of their downstream retail services to be strong evidence against the claims made by BTC.”

URCA further noted that it has conducted an assessment of the bandwidths historically offered to customers and the services taken by OLOs in the past, based on information submitted by BTC and CBL earlier in the review process.

“Considering this alongside Coakster’s request for lower-bandwidth services, URCA has determined that it is necessary for both BTC and CBL to offer a wider range of bandwidths to their WDIA customers, including lower bandwidth products,” it said.

BTC and CBL must now set regulated PoP-based wholesale DIA charges for at least 30, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, 250, 350, 500, 750 and 1,000 Mbps.

“This must be based on fixed and variable elements of charges derived from the costing exercise such that the per-31 Mbps charge decreases for higher-bandwidth products,” the regulator said.

“This is based on URCA’s understanding that OLOs’ bandwidth requirements start from as low as 30Mbps, with OLOs’ business plans resting on the ability to scale up bandwidth subscriptions incrementally as they grow their retail customer base.”

BTC and CBL must now submit to URCA for approval their draft final WDIA reference offers for their PoP-based wholesale DIA services. Following the submission of the draft final reference offers above, URCA will conduct its final checks as to whether these documents reflect all of URCA’s requirements.

BTC and CBL must then publish the approved price and non-price terms and conditions on which their PoP-based wholesale DIA services are provided, such as by publishing the URCA-approved WDIA reference offers prominently on their websites and additionally making such information available in other formats upon request.