JIS News

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell, has called for greater Internet use among Jamaicans, stating that he was disappointed at the low level of subscribers.
“I must say as Minister, this is my area of disappointment, the level of Internet usage in Jamaica, and the number of subscribers. We need to get this moving rapidly,” he stated.
Minister Paulwell, who was speaking at the opening of a two-day Internet Service Providers (ISP) workshop themed: ‘Strategies for Operating a Competitive ISP’ today (April 6) at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston, pointed out that Jamaica could not claim to be a member of a knowledge-based society if its Internet subscription was 10 per cent and below. “It is not going to happen,” he stressed, adding that, “the penetration rate for Internet access has remained behind those found in more dynamic markets.”
He attributed the low figures to the “relatively low fixed line penetration, the absence of many alternatives and the high price of Internet access,” noting that of the island’s approximately 130,000 internet subscribers, only 10 per cent had high speed access over wire and wireless facilities.
According to Mr. Paulwell, the challenge to ISPs was to work to achieve a 40 per cent to 45 per cent access rate over a three to four year period.
He noted that while liberalization had precipitated “spectacular growth” in the cell phone market, with Jamaica now being the leading country in the western hemisphere in terms of cell phone penetration, “the infrastructure for a knowledge-based society is broadband; make no bones about it.”
In his remarks, J. Paul Morgan, Director General of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), said that the rollout of the new international fibre infrastructure by Fibralink, while affording opportunities for greater diversity in international telecommunications access, held the potential for placing Jamaica at the hub of a regional and international telecommunications exchange.
In this regard, he said, there was need to “seriously consider the establishment of a local or regional Internet exchange point.”
The OUR Director General noted that the country was in a position where “a local exchange point will encourage and achieve further economies and efficiencies, which will redound to the benefit of consumers”. This, he claimed, could only happen if ISPs worked together, even while competing.
“We need to reverse this ethos where the Internet is viewed simply as a point for downloading information. It is my hope that .the ISPs will form part of a movement towards the development of greater local content so that we won’t be just visitors to the web, but we will be .hosts, providers and architects, and thus reverse the current incoming unidirectional characteristics of our present Internet traffic,” Mr. Morgan told participants.
Among the agenda topics at the two-day forum are: regulatory and competitive issues in the market; rationale and process to achieve an Internet exchange for Jamaica; and an ISP business model and economics for the Jamaican market. There will also be a panel discussion on the next steps to achieve competition in the broadband market, successful ENUM trial and a Jamaican Internet exchange.