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URCA Finds BTC In Breach Of License

Six months after the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) suffered a system-wide meltdown which affected more than 300,000 mobile, landline and broadband customers,  the regulator investigating the outage found that BTC failed to implement preventative measures and could face serious penalties if problems are not addressed.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) recently released a Preliminary Determination and Draft Order, which found that BTC was in breach of a condition of its individual operating license by “failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to maintain to the greatest extent possible, the proper and effective functioning of its public telephone network”.

In its investigations, URCA found that BTC failed to establish adequate redundancies, resiliencies and contingencies in its network design.

“BTC reported having knowledge of the limited geographic redundancy of the network platforms since April 2011,” the preliminary draft order said. “However, prior and up to the date of the network outage, BTC failed to take measures to effectively rectify and/or correct this critical network concern.”

URCA also found there was inadequate preventative maintenance of the network equipment at the Poinciana Drive Technical Complex and its backup systems.

“There was no evidence in the preventative records submitted by BTC to URCA of processes and procedures to sufficiently test and maintain backup batteries, nor were there measures to address generator and automatic transfer switch faults,” URCA said.

“The failure of BTC’s entire bank of batteries, the generator and automatic transfer switch hindered the restoration of power to the Technical Complex and services to the public.”

The third finding identified by URCA is BTC’s failure to implement an effective business continuity plan.

The draft report said that up to June 18, BTC had “neither established nor implemented such a plan. Business continuity plans and measures are necessary to guarantee continuous, uninterrupted operation of electronic communications networks and services”.

As a result of its findings, URCA intends to impose four obligations on BTC.

BTC will be required to conduct an impact analysis and risk assessment in order to reduce all major weaknesses and vulnerabilities in its network infrastructure and establish an adequate backup power supply at its Poinciana Drive Technical Complex on or before February 28, 2013 that will support continuous electronic communications network functionality and services at all times in the event of a power outage.

BTC will also be required to systematically conduct preventative maintenance of its network, ancillary equipment and stand‐by equipment in accordance with pre‐determined schedules, which shall be agreed with URCA; and to systematically perform tests on stand‐by equipment in accordance with international standards and best practice and subject to a pre‐determined schedule, which shall also be agreed with URCA, the draft order said.

URCA issued the Preliminary Determination and Draft Order to BTC on December 21, 2012. URCA said BTC has been given until January 25, 2013 to respond to URCA’s position with any representations of objections before the final determination is issued.

URCA is required to give BTC a month to respond.

“Failure to comply with the order in part or whole could attract a fine not exceeding 10 percent of BTC’s relevant turnover or other penalty that may be determined by URCA,” the draft order said.

BTC suffered the meltdown in June. Company officials reported that a power outage knocked out BTC’s network management center on Poinciana Drive.

On June 22, URCA launched an investigation into BTC’s actions regarding those outages.

By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter

Posted in Business

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