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Efforts to attract undersea cable industry

Legislation to advance Bermuda's efforts to become a digital hub for the interconnection of submarine cables was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, tabled three bills for consultation that he said would provide a strong regulatory framework to attract this “potentially valuable sector” to the island.

Bermuda's location creates a logical stopover for cables connecting the Americas to Western Europe.

Mr Roban spoke of the potential for an additional revenue stream for the economy through the use of the island by the submarine cable industry as a transit location.

With significant infrastructure helping to meet economic substance requirements, it could also make Bermuda attractive as a potential location for head offices of cable companies, Mr Roban added.

“The Bermuda Business Development Agency is currently focused on promoting Bermuda as an Atlantic digital hub for interconnection of cables,” Mr Roban told MPs.

“There is currently no Atlantic hub and, because of our unique, prime geographic location, Bermuda is a logical choice to become that hub.

“By comparison, the Pacific Ocean has three hubs; Guam, Hawaii and Fiji. This is the focus of these ‘transit cable systems' market opportunities.”

The three Bills tabled were the Submarine Cables Permit and Licensing Act 2019, the Submarine Cables (Protected Areas) Act 2019 and the Submarine Cables (Protected Areas) Order 2019.

The Government is seeking feedback from industry stakeholders. The consultation will last through October, after which any necessary amendments will be made and final versions of the Bills will be tabled in the House in November.

Mr Roban cited Southern Cross Cable Network and Australia Japan Cable as undersea cable companies which already had head offices in Bermuda.

“These companies have people on the island, employ Bermudians, and use our head office support services,” Mr Roban said. “We aim to attract similar submarine cables to the island.”

Submarine networks carry more than 95 per cent of the world's intercontinental electronic communications traffic and are considered “critical infrastructure” by governments and corporations alike.

“Landing and operating significant systems in some jurisdictions has become increasingly difficult and lacks a single landowner or a single marine spatial planning regulator,” Mr Roban said.

“Countries that have shorter and more certain timeframes for the permitting process are being sought and are becoming much more attractive.”

The legislation sets out timelines for speedy processing of applications by telecommunications regulator the Regulatory Authority.

Three submarine cable systems — Globenet, Gemini and Challenger — already connect with the island.

“Large technology companies are currently building submarine cable systems that go past, but do not connect into, Bermuda,” Mr Roban added.

“We are hoping to highlight to these companies the opportunity to do a branching unit from those planned systems into Bermuda, creating economic substance with significant infrastructure and thus supporting any intellectual property company assets that are located in Bermuda.”

Connecting the world: a cable-laying ship moored at Dockyard in 2004 (File photograph)

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Published September 30, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 30, 2019 at 1:08 am)

Efforts to attract undersea cable industry

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