The National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC) is subsidizing the cost of basic internet service through its Net4All programme for the benefit of students and their families who find it difficult to access the internet.
Executive Director NTRC, Craig Nesty said during the virtual launch the programme this week, that as Dominica transforms itself with the Digital Dominica project, one will find it difficult to access services and may in fact, be segregated from society.
“The NTRC has recognized this and is implementing one more measure to help stem this – Net4All,” he said. “It will allow students and their families who find it difficult to afford the internet to have access to services subsidized by the Universal Service Fund for only $10.00 a month.”
Nesty continued, “This will complement other initiatives like community WIFI networks and the East Coast broadband project.”
He added, “Net4All is a good step; it is a necessary step and much more has to be done if we are to realize the goal of making the internet affordable, accessible and available to all and to ensure we don’t have a situation where segments of our communities are segregated from our digital society.”
He said the providers must be commended for stepping up and recognizing that this is more than a corporate responsibility.
“It is a corporate necessity…,” he stated. “We can’t rest until internet in Dominica is affordable.”
And while, according to Nesty, the NTRC understands the external forces that have been brought to bear on service providers operating in the markets, the need to make acceptable rates of returns for external investors and the need to hit targets in order to encourage more investors, “we must also recognize that this dynamic pushes the internet further and further beyond the reach of our citizens.”
The NTRC official believes that unless there is real competition on the market, “where their cost, that is the local operators’ capital”, is from the market and the returns of their investment are commensurate with returns from the market, “we will always be reaching for affordability.”
“So while I applaud the internet providers for making this service available, I am concerned that it may not be sustainable and it may not even be compatible with their ideals,” he noted.
Nesty hopes that the NTRC can find the will enact policies to real tangible benefits for the Dominican consumer in what he dubbed “this dynamic telecommunications landscape.”