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Jamaica: Universal Service Fund to be Leveraged to Provide Universal Access to Internet Services

May 11, 2022

The Government remains resolute to provide universal access to Internet services.

Making his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 10, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said the Universal Service Fund (USF) is on a mission to enable a digital society, through universal access to the Internet and digital inclusion.

The thrust is being realised through the Connect Jamaica (Public Wi-Fi) programme; Community Wi-Fi Initiative; and the Community Access Points programme.

He said through the Community Wi-Fi initiative, 101 community Wi-Fi sites have been connected as at the end of March 2022.

Mr. Vaz informed that the remaining 88 sites will be connected by May 31, 2022.

“We had originally committed to achieving the connection of all sites by March 31, 2022; however, supply-chain challenges resulted in significant delays,” he said.

He said access is still being created through community access points, noting that seven sites were completed during the year, with the eighth site awaiting bandwidth upgrade before completion and handover.

The Minister noted that through the USF, connectivity has been provided to three sites to support the disabled community. They are The McCam Child Care and Development Centre, Salvation Army School for the Blind, and the Portmore Self-Help Disability Organisation.

“The vulnerable and disabled must also be given the tools to thrive in this digital society. Their connectivity to support educational and business pursuits is, therefore, a must,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister explained that the USF Connect-JA public Wi-Fi initiative is geared towards providing free Wi-Fi Internet access in major town centres, public green spaces and parks across the island.

He informed that as at March 31, 2022, the Universal Service Fund has established 14 sites across the island, adding that five of them were achieved during the 2021/2022 fiscal year.

Minister Vaz noted that the USF will seek to establish six new public Wi-Fi Hotspots during the 2022/2023 fiscal year.

“Partnerships will also be forged with tourism-sector interests to provide technical and other support for the establishment of public Wi-Fi sites in resort towns and tourist and historic sites,” he said.

Source: Jamaica Information Service