Increasingly, Caribbean countries have been expressing intentions to offer free Wi-Fi. Those initiatives tend to range from having free access in public spaces in major towns and cities, to 100% country-wide coverage. However, in Antigua and Barbuda, the VC Bird International Airport may be taking a step backward.
In the local newspapers last week, the Minister responsible for Civil Aviation, Robin Yearwood, re-floated a proposal to change the conditions on which the airport offers Wi-Fi service. Unlike currently where free Wi-Fi is offered, there is now the intention to permit free access to the service for 30 minutes, and thereafter, passengers would be required to pay. The Minister was quick to point out that the proposal is not inconsistent with what obtains in other Caribbean countries:
You get a half an hour free and then afterwards you pay. In some airports that I travel to, right here in the Caribbean you have to pay; you have to start by putting in your credit card information.
(Source: The Daily Observer)
Although the situation in Antigua and Barbuda was the impetus for this article, many Caribbean countries are guilty of not offering free public Wi-Fi, especially in areas such as airports and government offices, and in some instances, are charging fees for such access. Below are some considerations with respect to having free Internet access at airports in the region.
- Connectivity has become the norm. In this day and age, people expect to be connected to the Internet. In an airport setting in particular, which is catering not only for residents and Caribbean nationals, who might have limited expectations of having online access, but also international visitors, offering free Internet access can improve their overall travelling experience, especially as they wait for their flights.