In Conversation With Bermuda’s Regulatory Authority
By Fiona Beck and Denton Williams
March 19, 2021
New and innovative legislation to further develop and enhance Bermuda’s offering for the submarine cable industry was passed by the government last year. The Submarine Communications Cable Act 2020 (the Act) provides a regulatory framework for the installation, maintenance, and support of submarine communications cables, in addition to the establishment of a new submarine cable protection zone.
Fiona Beck, Director of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, Past President of SubOptic and Former President and CEO of Southern Cross Cable Network, recently caught up with Denton Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda, to discuss the latest developments and why industry players should take note of the benefits Bermuda offers, including data sovereignty, and traffic and network management.
Denton, it is great to be chatting with you today. Perhaps you can start by giving a high-level overview of the latest developments in Bermuda and what they mean for the industry?
Yes, absolutely. The Bermuda Government, the Regulatory Authority and the Bermuda Business Development Agency have been focused on working together to create a robust legislative framework for the development of the submarine cables industry in Bermuda, building on our long history and involvement in this space.
A comprehensive report was conducted by EGS Survey in 2019 to look at all the factors required – including Bermuda’s geology, existing and potential landing sites, hazards and restrictions, and cable engineering. The report concluded that there were two newly identified and geographically diverse landing spots suitable for submarine cables. Following consultation with stakeholders, a Submarine Protection Zone was established and incorporated into the legislation. The zone outlines a specified area restricting any activities that could potentially damage the submarine cables while also protecting our natural marine environment. The process for application, installation and maintenance within the zone is detailed within the Act.
Bermuda is unique in that we have also developed a dedicated business concierge service. Managed by the Regulatory Authority and supported by the Bermuda Business Development Agency, this service acts as a strategic partner and provides a single point of contact to streamline the process, with a 60 -75 day approval approach in line with best industry practice.
Once the legislation passed, we then entered an exercise of industry benchmarking to establish the necessary fee structure which was finalised at the end of 2020. The fee structure has been developed to encourage systems to land.
Can you tell us more about the significance of a Submarine Protection Zone?
The Submarine Protection Zone provides two main advantages. Firstly, it supports the ability to approve an application within 60 to 75 business days because a wider environmental study has already been completed. Although an environmental impact study will still be required by the applicant, the depth of that study will be significantly reduced and, as a result, it will be more cost effective. Secondly, the zone provides assurance to our applicant that their cables will be protected in our waters.