Wood Park connected through Community Wi-Fi initiative
Gareth Davis Sr
Sophia Gibson is elated that she no longer has to constantly spend money on phonecards to get data for internet access, as her community of Wood Park in St Mary recently became the first to be connected to the internet via satellite under the Universal Service Fund's (USF) Community Wi-Fi initiative.
The service which is being facilitated by ReadyNET was commissioned on March 30, at the Wood Park Community Centre. The dish equipment which transmits the service is connected to a satellite, 22,500 miles away.
"In the twinkling of an eye, we would easily use up our data and could not access the Internet. This is a deep-rural community which relies heavily on farming. So therefore we are just simple and common people. Access to Internet is very important, especially in today's world, and it allows us to stay connected with family and friends overseas," she said.
Gibson said that during the COVID-19 lockdowns, students had trouble accessing online classes and the businesses in the community were affected. Under the community Wi-fi initiative, residents are able to purchase commercial data packages from ReadyNet. There is also the provision for persons to receive free data from hotspots.
"This will go a far way in helping students and other people to easily access the Internet, whether it's for research purposes, making online purchases, or just simply to access information," said Member of Parliament for St Mary Western Robert Montague, where Wood Park is located.
Montague said that even though Chris Dehring, CEO of ReadyTV, assured him that the community could get Wi-Fi, he was doubtful "because phone don't work round deh".
"He [Dehring] came and do him likkle test and say him coming back. And he came back with [satellite] dish and pretty things. And before it even set up, I called the former principal, through a video call, and I said, 'Teacher, yuh know weh mi deh?' The Internet is going to take these children to the world. It also gives them a tool to use to educate themselves and to be the best that they can be," Montague said.
The MP, however, was quick to point out that the Internet can also be a dangerous place.
"It is a place that people can be misled, and people can be corrupted. I, therefore, ask parents and adults to watch the content that the children are accessing, because some of the things that are available is not healthy for adults much less children. We can't allow the children alone to just surf the net along without a little guidance," Montague said.
Daniel Dawes, CEO of the USF, urged the residents to be efficient and safe when using the service, adding, "Every month we have to pay for the service, so I ask you to take care of the equipment and I ask that once the service is down, you have a duty to call the Universal Service Fund and let us know."