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Gov’t in dialogue with Starlink 

MINISTER of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz says discussions are being held with satellite Internet provider Starlink regarding broadband connectivity expansion in hard-to-reach areas in Jamaica.

Starlink was given the green light to commence operating in Jamaica in October 2022.

Vaz noted that the entity’s introduction has given “greater accessibility to areas that are not currently served or [are] underserved”.

“It is a private entity; we have reached out to them. They have, obviously, as a new start-up, been having their issues, in terms of… rolling out, et cetera. But the intention is to have dialogue with them to see how we can partner with them to try and see if we can cover some of these areas,” the minister said.

He was speaking during the sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Vaz said it would not be the first time that Jamaica has utilised satellite Internet connectivity, citing the Ministry of Education and Youth’s use of the tool during the COVID-19 pandemic through a local provider.

“I know that [the] Universal Service Fund (USF) has already been in touch with them. It’s a matter of how and what we can arrive at, in terms of an agreement in principle. We know the areas, obviously USF is very au fait with that,” Vaz said.

“So, yes, that has to be a part of the plan, in terms of getting better coverage for the entire country, while we do the National Broadband Initiative,” he added.

Meanwhile, he said Cabinet has approved the National Broadband Initiative as a national designated plan to come to Parliament.

Vaz said this will allow the Government to conclude negotiations with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) regarding “the model that we will use in relation to the procurement, which will come thereafter”.

“I would expect it to come to Parliament in short order. It is with the Ministry of Finance [and the Public Service] now, and after that we should be in a position to get moving as the procurement guidelines have kept us going for the last eight to 12 months, but we are over that now. We’ve got Cabinet approval, so it’s now for the Ministry of Finance to bring it here… and then, of course, somewhere, we can start final negotiations with the IFC,” Vaz said.

The National Broadband Initiative aims to connect every household and community to the Internet.

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