Over 650,000 households have access to broadband internet, says Flow
Director of Regulatory Affairs at Flow, Charles Douglas (Photo contributed)

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Telecommunications provider Flow says over 650,000 Jamaican households have access to its broadband internet service, including over 200,000 which can now access the internet via its upgraded fibre fast network.

Noting that the company has invested over US$300 million to expand its fibre optic network since 2019, Director of Regulatory Affairs Charles Douglas said over 425 communities have been added to the company’s network since 2020. He noted further that since 2021, more than 73 of the communities connected are outside of Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.

Flow, which provides service to residential and business customers, is also a ‘carrier of carriers’ as it provides fibre optic connectivity to other telecommunication service providers within the Jamaican market.

It also provides 10G broadband internet service to large enterprises with its fault-tolerant network for commercial customers, rolled out in 2018.

10G refers to internet speeds of 10 Gigabits per second and is considered the next frontier of connectivity as it supports instantaneous transactions.

Speaking during a recent panel discussion on “The Future of Broadband Internet and Community Access” hosted by the Universal Service Fund, Douglas said: “We are talking about empowering businesses to tend to their customers remotely in real-time, thereby ensuring the highest quality of service delivery. Currently, we have a client that is reaping the benefits of our 10G connection.”

He added that the company’s island-wide fibre network is also the backbone of the Ministry of Health’s telemedicine solution.

The panel included other leaders within the technology space such as Vice President and Chief Information Officer at UTECH Anthonio Anderson and Managing Director of the Spectrum Management Authority Dr Maria Myers-Hamilton.

In his remarks, Douglas emphasised the importance of not only striving for faster speeds but wider availability of and access to reliable internet service.

He said that while internet service is widely available, many are unable to access the service as they cannot afford it. He, therefore, called for robust public/private partnerships to address the affordability issues widening the digital divide.

“It’s a tough issue, but at Flow, it is something that we are constantly seeking to solve sustainably. The question now is, how can we effectively use the limited funds we have to achieve universal internet access,” Douglas shared.

He pointed to countries like the United States which have taken a strategic approach that sees the Government working closely with the telecommunications industry to bridge the divide.

“In the United States, US$130 billion in Government grants has been allocated to providers to facilitate the build-out of their networks in underserved and unserved communities in the interest of the public good,” Douglas said.

He said that while the American model may not be the perfect fit for Jamaica, it may serve as a good starting point for the public and private sectors as they seek to design and implement the best strategy for the country to achieve ubiquitous internet access.

His call for more public/private partnerships was endorsed by Dr Myers-Hamilton.

“The government cannot do it alone. We need the private sector to partner with us and we did that two years ago when we had the shutdown (and internet access challenges) due to the pandemic. We all came to the table to solve the problem. So, to move this country forward and increase access we all have to take ownership of the problem and work to address it,” Dr Myers-Hamilton said.

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