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Roban praises telecoms, but says more can be done

Reshape the landscape: Walter Roban, Minister of Home Affairs, believes there is more to be done to assist families with affordability around telecommunications services {Photograph by Akil Simmons}

More can be done to assist families to afford internet services that have become vital for many now working from home, or for children undertaking some learning online.And there is a willingness within the telecommunications sector in Bermuda to assist those in need, according to Walter Roban, Minister of Home Affairs.He said: “There is more that needs to be done to assist families with affordability around these services, as they are going to need them, and the children are going to need them.“We are working with the Regulatory Authority and the telecoms companies to see what other options can be created as new services are needed. I think the private sector is quite willing to respond to new services.”He added: “We will work with them so they can be affordable and accessible. We will work with them so people can have at least a minimal level service that is affordable.”In response to the Covid-19 pandemic there has been an increase in demand for reliable internet connectivity from employees who have switched to working remotely from home, and for children doing some learning online.Mr Roban praised the local telecoms sector for the way it had performed during and after the height of the pandemic in Bermuda.He said that at the beginning of the pandemic no one understood what the impact would be. It had led to many people working from home and companies reorganising internally to respond to that.Mr Roban said: “Our local telecoms sector has responded well to that transition. And I had discussions with all of the leaders of those companies through the pandemic about what they were doing with that transition, and also how they were going to respond to the needs of citizens.”He added: “They suspended certain payment requirements — people weren’t going to have their services cut off because they weren’t able to pay. There was a willingness from the telecoms operators to work with the situation, and I do believe they responded well to that.“Going forward, obviously they are companies that have to make certain revenue objectives, and the economy has impacted them too. So we will be responsive to their needs because this has impacted them, but at the same time we will work with them to make sure that people can still receive the services they need.”Mr Roban said the types of service that people will need is changing, and there will be more need for people to have greater broadband services for their homes.“Those are some of the things that we are working with the RA and the telecoms sector to deal with. Even the issue of children and how we adjust to children having more remote-learning needs. We are talking to the telecommunications firms and the RA about how we reshape the landscape to respond to that.”The minister yesterday announced that the RA had approved three new communication operating licences. One is a Submarine Communication Operating Licence for Cable & Wireless Network Services, allowing it to connect submarine cables to the networks of any Integrated Communication Operating Licence holder.Meanwhile, Paradise Mobile Ltd and Wave Bermuda Ltd, which trades as Horizon Communications Ltd, have both been given an ICOL to establish, construct, and operate one or more electronic communication networks to provide services in Bermuda.Mr Roban said the two new ICOLs would add “in excess of $20 million in investment, which will create jobs”.He added: “This is welcome news for our economy, as we continue to navigate the financial effects of the coronavirus global pandemic — and provides additional choice to consumers. It also extends our extensive telecommunications system, which connects Bermuda to the world’s financial centres.”In addition, the RA is to place a temporary moratorium on the deployment for 5G mobile technology for all its existing and new licence holders. It is doing this following concerns raised about the technology, and the moratorium is pending the completion of a radio frequency study and a final determination about the use of 5G.The radio frequency study will include an opportunity for the public to provide their views to the RA prior to any final decisions. Mr Roban said: “I would encourage input from all sectors of the community on this topic to assist the RA in coming to a final determination.”