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JIS News

The Universal Service Fund (USF) has launched a new public Wi-Fi hotspot in May Pen, Clarendon, to help residents and visitors access the Internet.

“For the current financial year, May Pen Square is the first public Wi-Fi hotspot that we have established. It was completed in the first week of September and currently, the hotspot can accommodate 200 persons browsing simultaneously,” Marketing and Public Relations Manager, USF, Deleen Powell, told JIS News.

Ms. Powell noted that due to the current outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the USF opted for a soft launch for the public hotspot this time around.

“The main reason behind this project is that the USF is seeking to bridge the Internet divide locally. We also want to ensure that persons from vulnerable groups can access the Internet, especially the youth, the elderly and persons who are disabled. We know that not everyone will have home Internet services or Internet data on their phones, so free Wi-Fi hotspots offer a viable alternative,” Ms. Powell said.

The USF is mandated to ensure that there is islandwide communal Internet access. There are several projects that the USF executes to carry out this mandate, one of which is their flagship project ‘Connect Ja’. The project speaks to the establishment of free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country in each parish within the next two years.

Ms. Powell shared that it takes about three to six months for a Wi-Fi hotspot to be established, as it entails ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place, while exercising the standard Government procurement process.

“Once this process is over, we then begin working with one of the two major Internet service providers, so that we can have the solution up and running. In fact, we have several solutions that will be created before the end of the financial year (March 2021). We are in the process of establishing free Wi-Fi hotspots in Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Annotto Bay, St. Mary, and Port Antonio in Portland. We will also be establishing another free Wi-Fi hotpot in Clarendon, but this time in Chapelton,” Ms. Powell noted.

“We do recognise that we are in a pandemic and the need for Internet connectivity has increased. However, we are imploring persons to observe all coronavirus protocols that have been established by the Government, specifically wearing a mask and staying six feet apart while using the public hotspot,” she said.

Ms. Powell is encouraging users to browse responsibly and keep the Cybercrimes Act in mind.

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