By December 2018 visitors to Emancipation Park, St. Andrew will have access to the internet via their mobile devices at no cost. The connectivity is courtesy of the Universal Service Fund under its Connect JA Free Public Wi-Fi project.
Under Connect JA, seven (7) free public Wi-Fi hot spots have been established at a cost of JA $124 million. The project complements the USF’s Community Access Point initiative which has seen to the establishment of 271 internet cafes in underserved communities island-wide.
Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Service Fund Suzette Buchanan said the drive to establish free public Wi-Fi hotspots is in keeping with the Agency’s expanded mandate as outlined in the Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2012.
The USF was established by ministerial order in 2005 as the Universal Access Fund Company Limited and was given the mandate of ensuring communal access to the internet at centralized locations such as computer labs. The USF was also established to finance web and computer based educational programmes being executed through E-Learning Jamaica. “Today, as the Universal Service Fund, we are also tasked with providing internet service at the individual level through the provision of devices and Wi-Fi internet access” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said Connect JA, which began in 2016, was also crafted in response to global trends which have seen the proliferation of wireless broadband service. She added that the project aligns with the internet usage patterns of Jamaicans, many of whom are primarily using smart phones and other mobile devices to access the internet.
“Today, more Jamaicans are banking, learning, shopping and communicating online, while on the go. Through these free public Wi-Fi Hotspots, the Universal Service Fund is empowering Jamaicans to access information and services that can improve their quality of life without the burden of internet costs.” Buchanan said.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, 45% of Jamaicans use the internet on a regular basis, just one percent less than the global average.
With ICT and by extension, access to the internet, globally considered as a key enabler of economic and social development, the USF has a pivotal role in Jamaica’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and in fostering an inclusive digital economy.
Six Public Wi-Fi hotspots have already been strategically established in high traffic areas in Kingston and St. Andrew, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
By December 2019 the USF will also establish free Wi-Fi hotspots in the old capital of Spanish Town, St. Catherine and the second city of Montego Bay, St. James. Over the next three years the Agency will continue to expand its network to ensure there is at least one hotspot in each parish.
About the USF
The Universal Service Fund is an Agency under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology mandated to ensure access to information and communication tools to facilitate development.
In 2005, the USF began operation as the Universal Access Company Limited following a Ministerial Order which mandated that all domestic telecommunications providers are obligated to collect a universal service levy on all inbound telephone calls.
The levy is imposed on International calls terminating on local networks.
Calls terminating on fixed lines incur a levy of US$0.03 and US$0.02 on mobile lines. The funding acquired from this levy is used to further our mission to provide universal access to all Jamaicans, regardless of age, class or geographic location.