Student expresses concern about lack of internet access in Kalinago Territory and other east coast areas

Sreenshot of Whitney Melinard from video

Whitney Leah Melinard, a student of the Lead Institute, has expressed concern, through a video on social media, about the lack of internet access in the Kalinago Territory.

After almost 3 years since Hurricane Maria, the Kalinago Territory has been among some areas on the east coast that remain without WiFi access.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students were asked to stay home and engage in online learning.

According to Melinard, this means that these students have no choice but to use data packages and portable routers with data limits for research, which she said is very costly.

“This is costly to our families who are already facing economic challenges,” she stressed. “This, to me, is extremely unfair; while other students in Dominica have unlimited access to the internet, my friends and family are at a disadvantage yet again, through no fault of theirs.”

Melinard asked, “Should I include that may be another example of the implicit systematic racism?”

The Lead Institute student pointed out that the communities of Castle Bruce, La Plaine and Marigot have WiFi, yet, Atkinson and the Kalinago Territory which are located in the middle of these communities don’t have that service.

“I refuse to accept the narrative that because the primary schools have internet access, we should be satisfied,” she contended.

Melinard believes that the services providers on the island have refused to invest in infrastructure in the Kalinago Territory.

“It seems these service providers have simply refused to invest in infrastructure in the Kalinago Territory, but willingly bleed out the last dollar from the beings of the most vulnerable,” she lamented. “The more I look at this case, the more infuriating it becomes.”

Executive Director of The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), Craig Nesty, speaking on Q-95, said he is in total agreement with “the young lady”.

“This is completely unfair,” he stated.

He said a number of people in Dominica are disadvantaged and don’t have access to fixed internet.

“There are a number of communities where people are severely disadvantaged, especially with the Covid-19 Pandemic situation where most people are forced to stay at home,” Nesty explained. “It’s rather unfortunate, we’ve tried to put out tenders using the Universal Service Fund to address those gaps. We have been working very hard with the providers to find cost-effective solutions to the problem.”

He said the NTRC put out a first set of tenders for community WiFi for a number of communities in the east coast.

“Unfortunately those tenders were considered; the prices were so high…so we thought that it was best to ask the providers-the areas where there is no fixed internet to provide mobile data at a flat rate,” he explained. “We even proposed that we will meet the cost of all the mobile modems, LTE modems and we will also subsidize some of the costs for subscribers in those areas…”

Nesty believes that what is needed is fixed internet service on the east coast like what exists on the west coast.

He said the Kalinago Territory has technical and economic constraints which are exacerbated by the providers’ argument that despite having insurance on their network, the cost for the upgrade of the new facilities is much higher than the old network, “so they are rolling out in a fashion that will allow them to generate some revenue and use that revenue to roll out in other areas.”

“What I am saying is that the revenues generated from mobile data are so great and internet access right now being a utilitarian service, meaning you are forced to stay at home, you are forced to learn online…it’s almost like light and water,” he noted. “And then these people have no choice  they must access the service through their mobile data network…”

Meantime, Assistant Chief Education Officer, Jeffrey Blaize, who responded to a question on the matter during a press conference on Tuesday, said in terms of internet connectivity a study was done a few weeks ago from the inception of Covid , to determine the level of access to devices and internet services in the communities and homes.

He said the survey revealed that a number of the communities, particularly in the east and some in the north, did not have internet connectivity.

He said subsequent to that some collaboration between Digicel and Flow has resulted in the provision of internet service to a number of communities and that basically, “all our schools are connected.”

He advises students in communities with no internet access to visit the schools to access WiFi services.

He also said that devices were sent to a significant number of schools through chrome books.

“We are advising students to visit the schools in small groups with their teachers to receive the chrome books,” Dr. Blaize stated. “We are very careful in that approach because we ensure that we have no more than ten students at a time at the schools and we observe the relevant social distancing and hygiene.”

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18 Comments

  1. Consciousblackman
    June 13, 2020

    It’s a sad day when a young lady not yet an adult has more commonsense, integrity, awareness and empathy for humanity and is able to articulate her thoughts unlike some of you in the comments……..how is this not a race issue the caucasians came to America stole the land from the native Americans living a small portion of land to them how is that different from what was done to the Kalinago ppl forces to settle to the East of the island, we are called N……by the caucasians but then we turn around and call the Kalinagos Qwahibs so before we say she’s using the term systematic racism loosely ponder a bit because the wifi inaccessibility is just the tip of the iceberg. We live in a country where we are oblivious to the ills and issue of the world as it relates to racism because we are the majority on the Island by a vast amount until a cruise ship briefly appears but yet we practice this same racist thoughts and actions that is not being protested against in the us, rise up my ppl

  2. Sense out of nonsense
    June 11, 2020

    So black people can be racist too? I could swear we were told that only white people can be racist and as far as I know the people in charge of government and telecommunications in Dominica are all black people.

    • No you didn't
      June 12, 2020

      Hey whitey, it’s a 16yo kid attempting to bring a legitimate issue to the forefront. Unlike you Romans who are running a systemic racism mill in the U.S she is using the term a bit loosely to grab attention, and for good reason. Only you white people can stop your conniving systemic/institutional racism in the U.S, but you are not ready yet, still enjoying the pain of others with your privilege. Since apartheid was brought to an end in south Africa so will you racists with your bible.

    • Calm down
      June 12, 2020

      Ican see the sarcasm directed at the current situation in America. No one proclaimed white monopoly on racism, it is just humongous. Remember the Nazi Germany holocaust or the Rwanda genocide? That’s exactly what they’re trying to avoid in America.
      WE MUST DEVELOP AN UNDYING LOVE FOR OUR PEOPLE!

    • Truth Be Told
      June 13, 2020

      @Sense out of Nonsense, I would not use the word racist but i will prejudice., Growing up in Dominica there was alway issues with light skin people and darker skin people. Blacks were prejudice against the Kalinago people and they are still are to this day.

  3. mountain
    June 11, 2020

    Some things never change, stating a false hood and you are called student. We need to know what subject she is on. Waste of money

    • Just asking
      June 12, 2020

      Well do they have internet access besides just at the school, or that stuck a political nerve?

  4. Badbaje
    June 11, 2020

    The student says “After almost three years of not seeing any significant step by service providers and persons in charge of making decisions in Kalinago Territory, I felt that it was my purpose to advocate on the matter of internet access in my community.”
    The Minister Alfred said “that hotspots were made available outside of the schools in the Kalinago Territory and students are taking advantage of those hotspots.”
    Now you figure out if hostpots should be considered “Progress” in this example.

    • Don Keyballs
      June 14, 2020

      My friend lives in the village of Bense, and tell me there is NO internet connectivity in the school nor the village. Unfortunately, the Parl Rep has been MIA on this issue..

  5. Roger Burnett
    June 11, 2020

    Leah Melinard deserves credit for being this issue to the fore. It gives one hope that the youth of today will make a difference for tomorrow.

    I am pleased that The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission have responded positively. I have recently been trying to contact the Commission with other concerns but find that I cannot reach them by email or telephone. I would be grateful if they could post their current contact details.

  6. Mj
    June 11, 2020

    Some ppl have agreed to foot their bills the service providers said the communities are too small the need at least 10 to 15 from the community to provide service

  7. Mj
    June 11, 2020

    Some ppl have agreed to foot their bills tge service providers said the communities are too small the need at least 10 to 15 from the community go provide service

  8. Annon
    June 11, 2020

    The Kalinagos don’t know how lucky they really are.

    • Sylvester Cadette
      June 11, 2020

      WHAT A DESPICABLE COMMENT!! How could you, How dare you?
      As one in the telecommunications industry, I know full well the implications to the lives of people – even more so at this time of COVID-19.

      The Young Lady should be commended for bringing the problem of her community to the fore.

      • Sense out of nonsense
        June 11, 2020

        boo hoo. how dare the man speak his mind. he should just shut up and go with the trend. It’s like we’re living in communist China or something.

    • Badbaje
      June 11, 2020

      I think DNO should ask this person to apologize to everyone here, or not post any furture comment by the person.

      Any way I think of, or view this comment, I see it as an insult to all humanity, not just top the people of that region.

      • Annon
        June 16, 2020

        The ignorance of Dominica continues.

  9. derp
    June 11, 2020

    this is really sad, and these are the indigenous Waitukubuli people

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