Government Awaiting Service Provider Solutions for Three-Year Internet Blackout in Areas

by: - June 12, 2020
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   Hon Senator Oscar George, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications and Broadcasting

The Ministry of Telecommunications and Broadcasting today responded to the lack of internet in the Kalinago Territory saying that both service providers are working out proposals to undertake the task of reconnection.

“Through government intervention, the local regulator, the NTRC, published bids to address the connectivity issues. I’m advised that the in-house estimates and the proposal from the services providers significantly varied,” said Hon Senator Oscar George, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications and Broadcasting.

“As we speak, both parties are reviewing these proposals; Government expects a solution as soon as possible and we will be very disappointed with the service providers if this is not materialized,” he stated.

This comes after a law student at Lead Institute hailing from the Kalinago Territory, Whitney Melinard, expressed concern in a video about the lack of internet access in the Kalinago Territory in a video which attracted a lot of attention and some reaction.

In her statement, she said the Kalinago Territory is victim to systemic racism- citing the almost three-year disconnection.

“I experienced firsthand the disadvantage of the lack of WIFI access while I sat my CSEC exams in 2018,” Melinard said. “…Students in the Kalinago Territory deserve the equal opportunity to research in the comfort of their homes like most Dominicans.”

The Hon Education Minister, Octavia Alfred said Wednesday that the accusations are untrue and that the territory has improved in the past ten years.

“If we have to count the number of students who went away to study, we will see that it has never been so before,” Hon Alfred responded. “If we have to look at the performance of students from this area, we will know that unlike last year, in the CXC, in the top, there were students from this area.”

Since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island in 2017, swatches of the island have been without internet connectivity.

With the global pandemic forcing life to rely on virtual engagements, a section of the population is still in the dark.

Hon Senator George, commented that Melinard’s statement was “unwarranted” and “far from the truth.”

“Prior to September 2017, Dominica could boast of broadband coverage of 95%,” he said. “While the two major telecommunications providers have done relatively well in restoring coverage our dear Kalinago Territory is still one out of 36 communities awaiting reconnection,” he said.

“While I totally understand the frustration expressed by the student from the Kalinago region and while I admire her bravery in voicing her concerns, the issue of racism preference or marginalization are not warranted and to be honest this is far from the truth,” the Hon Senator said.

“Let me take this opportunity to express clearly that Government is not mandated to develop telecommunication infrastructure and services, notwithstanding it is our job to serve our citizens and intervene where we see challenges,” he added.

He did however say that the authorities have been aware of the issue and working behind the scenes urgently and has provided interim options.

WIFI access is available at 224 public buildings including 70 schools as well as at health centres, resource centres, police stations and village council offices, Senator George listed.

The Hon Senator said the main challenge is the cost of connectivity in the area but an unnamed service provider is working to restore connectivity in the north with an aim to restore connectivity nationwide.