By Narayan Ammachchi
Three island nations in the Eastern Caribbean have joined forces to bolster their telecom infrastructure and provide their residents with easy access to broadband services. St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent will invest $25 million USD under the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program, partly funded by the World Bank.
The Caribbean Journal has described the program as “a significant step” in bridging the digital gap in the region. The initiative, according to the paper, is aimed at building submarine cable infrastructure and landing stations, domestic backbone networks and national Internet exchange points (IXPs).
Officials from the three countries and the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) recently met with officials from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) in the Port of Prince to discuss how they could tackle the region-wide challenge of developing telecommunications infrastructure.
US-based Packet Clearing House (PCH) has, in the meantime, agreed to advise the governments on how to bolster broadband infrastructure. In a symposium held last year in St Vincent, the PCG called on Caribbean governments to increase the number of local Internet exchange points (IXP) as a first step toward increasing the Internet speed in the island nations.
The countries have now begun to take such measures, with St Lucia gearing up to unveil its first IXP to mark its 35th Independence Day. An IXP is a physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers (ISPs) exchange traffic between their networks. Analysts say IXPs ease the data traffic on telecom networks.
Strengthening the telecom infrastructure is critical to the Caribbean, where governments are pinning their hopes on the online sector to generate jobs and reduce unemployment.