The National Broadband Initiative has been allocated approximately J$1.2 billion for the 2023/24 fiscal year to connect another 102 schools across six parishes.
The parishes listed include St James, St Ann, St Mary, Portland, St Catherine, and Clarendon.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Daryl Vaz, made the disclosure during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
“Due to the current road infrastructure work, the schools in the parish of St Thomas will not be connected via fibre, as the nature of the works means that the fibre-optic cables will be liable to frequent damage. However, efforts will be made, where possible, to connect these schools via microwave,” Vaz said.
The microwave infrastructure being built jointly by eGov and the National Works Agency (NWA) is a critical component of this infrastructure project, as it is designed to provide network resilience and redundancy to the fibre-optic backbone.
“It constitutes an upgrade to an existing wireless backhaul network currently managed by the NWA and will be accompanied by a fixed wireless solution overlay. At present, Parish Courts and Municipal Corporations are connected to the backbone for redundancy; thereafter, the most remote schools, which are more difficult to connect via fibre, will stand to benefit from connectivity using this network,” Vaz said.
He noted that this upgrade represents J$565.5 million of the J$1.2 billion that will be expended in this fiscal year.
Meanwhile, work on the National Broadband Initiative saw significant advancement during the 2022/2023 fiscal year.
Vaz said the emergency fibre-optic ring achieved almost 90 per cent completion with the support of private-sector partners, FLOW (Jamaica) Limited, Digicel Jamaica Limited and community cable operators, along with key agencies, such as the NWA, eGov Jamaica Limited and the Universal Service Fund.
“Approximately 118 additional high bandwidth public educational institutions were connected via this fibre-optic ring during the fiscal year, bringing the total number of these schools connected, to date, to 180 institutions across eight parishes,” Vaz said.
So far, 13 schools in Clarendon, 18 schools in Manchester, 16 schools in St Elizabeth, 13 schools in Westmoreland, nine schools in Hanover, 11 schools in Trelawny, and 70 schools in the Kingston Metropolitan Region have been connected.
This is in addition to the 13 Municipal Corporations, 13 Parish Courts, six police stations; five community centres and 51 ministries, departments and agencies that are already connected.
“This accomplishment was no mean feat. To facilitate these connections required the installation of over one thousand one hundred kilometres of fibre optic cable, over the past 24 months, at a cost of almost $1 billion,” Vaz said.