Eight months after receiving $25.7 million from grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to develop its Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative project, Internet Service Provider, Critical Hub Networks recently announced it has officially activated the Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative’s fiber optic network between Puerto Rico and Florida and has begun final network testing.
In April 2010, Critical Hub Networks, also known as Caribe.Net, received funding to activate its Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative (PRBI) to bring fast, affordable broadband Internet service to all of Puerto Rico. The Critical Hub project also received an additional $6.8 million in matching funds.
PRBI groups 85 percent of the island’s ISPs — CaribeNet; AeroNet Wireless Broadband; CulebraNet; Ayustar; PRW.NET; AWS Communications; and FLASSH Communications — who along with government and individual participants are “focused on solving the problems behind Puerto Rico’s lagging broadband Internet network.
“Since the funding of the project in April of this year, Critical Hub has made great strides in deploying this first key phase of our project,” said Carlo Marazzi, President of Critical Hub. “Over the next 30 days we will conduct final network testing in conjunction with broadband providers.
The network’s target activation date is Jan. 17, 2011, he said.
Puerto Rico’s broadband penetration rate stands at about 31 percent, less than half of the 67 percent average on the U.S. mainland, according to the Puerto Rico Chief Information Officer.
The service is also 60 percent more expensive and 78 percent slower than the United States national median. In a report published by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which ranked broadband speeds in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico was ranked last, at the 52nd place.
“While there are many factors at play, broadband in Puerto Rico is simply too expensive and too slow, when compared to the rest of the nation. The goal of the PRBI is to solve this — bringing fast, affordable broadband to all residents,” Marazzi said.
During a Webinar held in mid-September 2010 to unveil the island’s first broadband map, CIO Juan Eugenio Rodríguez said the goal is to increase that penetration rate to 60 percent in two years, at which time more residents should have access to high-speed Internet at lower costs and more basic services should be online.
Doubling the island’s penetration rate would result in a positive economic impact for Puerto Rico with the creation of some 32,000 direct and indirect jobs and $1 billion in income growth throughout the island, he said.
Funding for the PRBI comes from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
With the funding, the PRBI purchased a 10 Gbps — which is short for Gigabits per second — undersea fiber-optic cable directly connecting to Miami and deploy more than 180 miles of terrestrial middle-mile microwave network using 11 towers. The network will offer speeds from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to anchor institutions, including more than 1,500 K-12 schools, and local Internet service providers.
“High-speed broadband access and connectivity are vital for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness, world-class education, innovation and creativity. The PRBI is designed to bring Puerto Rico to a level comparable to the mainland, in terms of affordability and accessibility to fast broadband service,” stated Critical Hub Network’s ARRA grant proposal.
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