We must tap potential of satellite industry
The expansion and development of Bermuda's “blue economy” could generate green in the future, according to the country's former Attorney-General.
“I don't speak of the blue economy as only being the sea,” Phil Perinchief said. “I think of the sea and everything under it, and the sky and everything below and above that as being the total blue economy.”
Some 15 years ago, Mr Perinchief said he received an unprompted telephone call from a man in the United States asking if he was interested in developing one of Bermuda's four satellite slots.
“I didn't know exactly what he was talking about,” Mr Perinchief said. “I couldn't even spell satellite then.”
It was this call, he said, that prompted the beginning of his research, along with others, into the country's satellite industry, whose beginnings date back roughly 35 years.
In the early 1980s, Bermuda was allocated four satellite slots — essentially areas in the sky where a satellite can operate.
While “some progress” has been made in developing the commercial possibilities of the slots, previous governments have not “taken seriously enough” the possibility of growing the country's economy is this area, Mr Perinchief said.
While the cost of getting a satellite up and running — roughly $100 million, according to Mr Perinchief — can be prohibitive, other income-generating possibilities, including public-private partnerships or forms of rental arrangements, have not been actively pursued.
“We have not made, in my view, any serious attempts to do that,” he said.
In a recent address to the House, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, detailed a series of meetings with a number of agencies connected with the satellite industry.
Accompanied by permanent secretary William Francis, Dr Gibbons's two-day visit to Washington DC included meetings with representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and National Institute of Standards and Technology.
According to Dr Gibbons, one of his meetings was “to gain a better understanding” of a moratorium currently in place, since 2005, prohibiting service to the US satellite TV market, including from Bermuda's own satellite network.
“The Department of Telecommunications is currently working with our consultants to consider various options and provide me with a recommendation as to the best course of action to put us into a position to finally maximise the commercial potential of our premier satellite orbital resource,” Dr Gibbons said.
The topic of condosats — the shared ownership of satellites — was also discussed.
“My ministry is currently exploring the viability of creating custom legislation that would attract both the manufactures and the ‘condo' owners to our shores,” Dr Gibbons said.
“I see more movement,” Mr Perinchief said of recent government efforts to explore the expansion of the country's satellite industry.
“We have to stop thinking land-based economy all the time. We've got to look out and up.
“I'm just chomping at the bit to get more people involved.”