Paulwell not in full agreement with OUR Internet penetration report
Tyrone Thompson, Staff Reporter
Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell is pouring cold water on the latest Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) annual report, which has revealed continued low levels of Internet penetration on the island.
The report, which was released last week, shows that at March 2014, there were just over 145,000 Internet subscribers islandwide, representing a 5.4 per cent penetration rate. This signified a marginal increase over the previous year when the penetration rate stood at 5.2 per cent.
The OUR noted that with the number of mobile data subscribers at 878,000, the penetration rate for Internet services was closer to 37.35 per cent.
While Paulwell agreed that mobile data was by far the most popular way of connecting to the Internet, he felt the report failed to document the true numbers of Jamaicans who were connecting to the Internet every day.
"I don't think the report takes account of what the Government has been doing in terms of its universal service facilities. It doesn't take into account, for example, the over 200 community access points across Jamaica, or that we have Internet service in every library, or that we have connected over 200 secondary schools and are now rolling out our Tablets in Schools programme so that everyone has access to the Internet. These efforts have cost the Government billions of dollars," said Paulwell.
Speaking with The Gleaner from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union in Trinidad, the minister argued that the deficit in properly documenting these efforts was one reason for Jamaica's poor showing on the Global Information Technology Report, where the island was ranked 124th out of 140 countries surveyed for 'E-participation'.
Nevertheless, Paulwell was confident that Jamaica would be able to maintain new players in the broadband data marketplace, which could result in lower costs and higher levels of penetration.
"I am convinced that the market has scope for another player because the connection rates are still too high, and that's why we are insisting on number portability and co-location of facilities so that the entry level by a new player won't be as high as it is now, and I am very optimistic that this will be the case based on recent expressions of interest," noted Paulwell.
The OUR report also stated that current penetration levels for mobile subscriptions stood at 105.5 per cent, with just over 2.86 million subscribers.