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Fast Internet for the Grenadines delayed

Fast Internet for the Grenadines delayed

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The provision of proper broadband services to residents of the Grenadines is being held up, by among other things, negotiations with Digicel over rates for use of the undersea cable that connects St Vincent and Grenada to the Grenadines.

Managing Director of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) Apollo Knights said on Wednesday during a Facebook live broadcast that the issue of providing proper broadband to the Grenadines has been solved by the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) but there are now several issues, including pricing.

The CARCIP Undersea Cable System project saw the installation of submarine cables and connection to cable landing stations in Arnos Vale, Owia, Chateaubelair, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan and Union Island with connections to Carriacou and Grenada.

The project was implemented by Digicel with funding from the governments of SVG and Grenada and the World Bank.

Knights said on Wednesday that poor Internet service in the Grenadines has been a problem for years because of the way the Internet gets to the Grenadines.

The service is delivered via a wireless microwave connection which is susceptible to weather conditions, especially the links to Canouan and Union Island.

Knights said as a result, the governments of Grenada and SVG agreed to fund an Undersea Cable System with help from the World Bank. The cable was installed in August 2019.

Knights said the delay in service delivery is because the rates for use of the cable by telecommunications companies have not yet been approved or agreed upon.

He said the cable was installed by Digicel and there is a requirement under the agreement for rates to be put in place to allow for the use of the cable by other telecommunications companies.

He said under the agreement made with the World Bank, which helped to fund the project, the cable has to be an open access cable so that any provider could use it. Knights said this agreement had to be so because at present, each Internet provider has wireless links to the Grenadines and it is not feasible to install cables for each provider.

“So the issue is that the rates have not been approved or agreed upon as yet,” Knights explained.

He said Digicel has proposed rates and the governments and the NTRC have looked at them but think they are too high and will prevent other companies from using the cable and providing affordable services to consumers.

“So that is the reason why the Internet in the Grenadines continues to be at such a poor level and we hope that can be resolved in the next few weeks.

“The cable is up and running so it is just a matter of the rates being approved so other companies can access and give a good service to the citizens,” Knights said.

He added that as a result of the rate issue, FLOW does not want to add more customers to their network in the Grenadines because that could congest the network further and slow it down.

Knights said when the cable issue is sorted, in the coming months, the same 100 Mbps offered by FLOW on the mainland will be available to persons in the Grenadines.

A source at FLOW said the rate negotiation issue has delayed the service upgrade as no company wants to provide a service at a loss.

The NTRC has as part of their mandate, to bring proper Internet connectivity to persons. They do this through the use of the Universal Service Fund (USF).