More public Wi-Fi hot spots comingThursday, September 30, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
THE Government is targeting 28, out of 189 selected communities, for the deployment of Wi-Fi hot spots by the end of October, as it rolls out more public hot spots across the island.
All 189 communities are expected to have hot spots fully deployed by July next year. With the phased programme, hot spots are expected to be deployed in 32 more communities by January 2022, as the Government races to narrow the gap in the digital divide made more apparent by the demands on connection for work and school due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Technology Minister Daryl Vaz announced the roll-out of the initiative, and a number of other undertakings in connectivity, in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
He said the community component of the public Wi-Fi intervention is complementary to the provision of free Wi-Fi at major sites, under the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is spearheading this initiative in partnership with the National Works Agency.
The expansion of public Wi-Fi hot spots is being rolled out in four phases, with the fourth and final stage being full deployment of the final 69 sites by the end of the first quarter of 2022/2023.
Vaz also told the House that contracts have been awarded for three out of seven sites from the original USF hot spot programme, which are to be set up in Falmouth, Savannala- Mar, Morant Bay, Lucea, Spanish Town, Port Maria, and Black River by the end of this financial year.
Contracts have been awarded for three sites and procurement initiated for the remaining four sites.
Additionally, he said a fibre optic cable gap analysis, done to identify areas across the country where there is little or no access to private dark fibre strands, indicates that about 600,000 meters of new fibre optic cables must be installed to facilitate connection across parishes, including for Government entities.
“At present, the Government, with the assistance from the private sector, has expanded its fibre optic footprint to provide connectivity to the parishes of St Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, Westmoreland, St James, St Thomas, and St Ann,” said Vaz.
He added that the Government also has commitment from a private Internet service provider to provide fibre connectivity to Trelawny and Hanover before the end of October.
He said St Mary and Portland are to be connected when the fibre optic cables are installed along the North Coast Highway. The technology minister, however, warned that the pandemic will cause delays.
“The pandemic has resulted in significant delays in the delivery of accessories and equipment, including routers, which are critical to the execution of the work. So that when we are talking about timelines for completion, we are now required to factor in significant delays which affect not only the Government's activities but also those of private sector contractors and partners who are working alongside us,” explained Vaz.