Jamaica’s two major telecommunication providers (“Telcos”), Digicel (Jamaica) Limited and Cable and Wireless (Jamaica) Limited (trading as FLOW) have agreed to zero-rate access to all novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers in use by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, effective today, March 13, 2020.
This agreement was reached during a meeting called by the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, the Honourable Fayval Williams, at the Ministry’s Head Office in Kingston.
The Minister explained that “at this time, zero-rated access to COVID-19 numbers is of critical importance to citizens, as well as visitors to the island who require access to up-to-date and accurate information on COVID-19”.
The Telecos assured the Minister that they are ready to support the national effort to manage COVID-19 and in this regard:
- have activated their Business Continuity Plans with the highest level of priority;
- will continue to provide zero-rated access to Government websites, such as the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ website;
- have prioritized access to, and repairs and maintenance of, emergency communication services and networks; and
- will take steps to facilitate the cohort of students preparing for the Primary Exit Profile Ability Tests; Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate Examinations; and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations.
It is anticipated that with the closure of educational institutions and some corporate enterprises, in the short to medium term, and in particular the next fourteen (14) days, there will be an increase in demand for residential services. Already, the Telcos have indicated that there has been an unprecedented increase in the demand for bandwidth and it is expected that this will continue, as citizens increase their access to information networks and business and social operations are migrated online.
To address this demand the Telcos have instituted additional measures to include, local and overseas redundancy; additional human resource personnel for critical areas; and increased priority and threat mapping.
Citizens are therefore encouraged to remain vigilant and conscientious in the use of the telecommunications infrastructure at this time and to desist from actions which can have a deleterious effect on the provision of services, such as vandalism of infrastructure and prank calling of emergency contact numbers.
The Minister will be holding regular meetings with the Telcos to assess the state of affairs and will provide additional updates as necessary.