Snapshot: 2015 update on the affordability of Internet service in the Caribbean

A 2015 update of the extent to which broadband Internet service is affordable across the Caribbean.

Following our latest review of Internet speed and pricing across the Caribbean, which we published last week, we now turn our attention to assessing the affordability of broadband Internet service in the region. Here, we update our findings from 2014, and discuss some of the changes that have occurred over the past three years.

Approach

In our most recent Snapshot: 2015 update of Internet speeds and pricing across the Caribbean, we examined the variation of fixed-line Internet download speeds and monthly pricing for select Internet plans across 19 Caribbean countries. Specifically, and focusing on a sample of ISPs, we:

  • determined the best monthly rates for a fixed broadband Internet service plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps
  • identified the best fixed broadband Internet plan by advertised download speed for up to USD 60.00, and
  • compared the monthly rates for a 2 Mbps fixed broadband Internet plan against those recorded in 2014.

Having examined monthly pricing, this review focuses on the affordability of those Internet plans. The prices captured in the Internet spend exercise have been compared against estimated monthly income, for which per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, sourced from the International Monetary Fund and United Nations, have been used as a proxy. The resulting ratios, which have been expressed as percentages, indicate the proportion of a person’s income that would be spent on the stated plan, and hence indicates the extent to which it might be affordable to the typical consumer.

How affordable is Internet service in 2015?

Figure 1, shows the percentage of an individual’s monthly income that could be spent on an Internet service plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps. For the countries not shown – Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guyana, and the Turks and Caicos Islands – the ISPs included did not offer a 2 Mbps plan, though other (faster) plans were available.

Figure 1: Portion of monthly income as a percentage for a 2 Mbps Internet plan in select Caribbean countries as at June 2015 (Source: ICT Pulse)
Figure 1: Portion of monthly income as a percentage for a 2 Mbps Internet plan in select Caribbean countries as at June 2015 (Source: ICT Pulse)

In 2015, there is still a wide variation across the region in the proportion of a person’s monthly income spent on Internet service, which ranged from 1.2% in Trinidad and Tobago, to 17.3% in Belize and 6.5% in Jamaica. Across the region, the proportion of a typical monthly income that could be expended on a 2 Mbps plan when averaged across the countries assessed (including Belize) was approximately 4.6%.

However, as noted in Snapshot: 2015 update of Internet speed and spend in the Caribbean, most ISPs offer a broad range of Internet plans. Using the Broadband Commission for Digital Development’s global target that the cost of fixed-broadband services should be less than 5% of monthly GNI per capita, we have sought identify the fastest Internet plan that can be secured for no more than 5% of the average person’s income, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Fastest Internet plan by download speed for no more than 5% of monthly income in select Caribbean countries in 2015 (ICT Pulse)
Figure 2: Fastest Internet plan by download speed for no more than 5% of monthly income in select Caribbean countries in 2015 (ICT Pulse)

In Belize, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Lucia, 5% of the average resident’s income would purchase the slowest Internet plan: in Belize, 256 kbps; in Antigua and Barbuda, 1 Mbps; whilst in the other countries, 2 Mbps. On the other hand, in the Cayman Islands, 4.9% of a resident’s monthly income could secure a 100 Mbps plan.

Also, it should be noted that the ISPs examined in Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines did not offer any Internet plans that satisfied the 5% criterion; hence they were excluded from this exercise.

Is broadband Internet service more affordable?

Since 2014 and across most of the countries reviewed, there has been some change in the portion of monthly income a 2Mbps Internet plan would consume, as reflected in Figure 3. The exceptions are Anguilla, Aruba, Belize, Curacao, and the Turks and Caicos Islands., where no significant change in was recorded.

Over the past three assessments, between 2013 and 2015, the most significant changes were registered:

  • Belize, where the portion of income spent decreased by -14.5%
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where the portion of income spent decreased by -6.4%, and
  • Suriname, where the portion of income spent decreased by -5.1%.

With the exception of the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guyana, and the Turks and Caicos Islands (as above), where the ISPs were not offering a 2 Mbps plan in 2015, a net decrease in the proportion of monthly income spent was recorded in all other countries.

Figure 3: Comparison of percentage of month income consumed by an Internet plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps between 2013 and 2015 in select Caribbean countries (Source: ICT Pulse)
Figure 3: Comparison of percentage of month income consumed by an Internet plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps between 2013 and 2015 in select Caribbean countries (Source: ICT Pulse)

Summary

Generally, fixed broadband Internet is becoming more affordable in the Caribbean as the portion of monthly income it consumes decreases. However in some instances, 5% of an individual’s monthly income might not be sufficient to purchase a fixed broadband Internet plan, or it would be just adequate to secure the slowest plan.

 

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