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High Internet and mobile data charges hampering business development - professor

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMStaff Reporter

Professor of Communications Policy and Digital Media at the University of the West Indies, Dr Hopeton Dunn has raised concerns that the high cost of Internet access and mobile data charges may be hampering the ability of Jamaicans to use the Internet for innovation driven activities.

Responding to questions from the The Gleaner, Dunn pointed out several weaknesses in Jamaica’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

According to Dunn, Jamaica currently benefits from access to a robust global ICT network and diverse content providers.

“We are connected. But there are not enough Jamaicans using broadband services for business development, content creation and economic growth. Part of the reason for this is the high cost of Internet access, including mobile data charges,” he said.

The developments in the ICT sector globally will, according to Dunn, introduce competition from Internet-based telecom and content providers is likely to alter the sector's business model significantly.

“We have to create the legislative and policy environment to manage these changes. Indications of these trends have long been evident the availability of voice over Internet (eg Skype) calls and now in the area of roaming. Given the emergence of packet switched systems, the cost of roaming with data transfer should be trending dramatically down,” he added.

Professor Dunn who also serves as Director of the Mona ICT Policy Centre laments the fact that roaming charges in Jamaica and the Caribbean have not experienced a decline in keeping with the global trends of downward movements in roaming charges.

“In the Caribbean ... roaming charges are astronomical. Europe, for example, will phase out roaming charges within its region within two years ("by 2017"). Regulators, policymakers and providers in Jamaica and the Caribbean should more actively explore how we can also embrace such technology-driven cost reductions for the benefit of our consumers, ICT innovators and businesses,” he argued.