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Broadband adoption up across island, but gaps remain

Telecom Regulatory Board President and REGULATEL Chairman Javier Rúa-Jovet.

Telecom Regulatory Board President and REGULATEL Chairman Javier Rúa-Jovet.

Home broadband adoption in Puerto Rico increased by 15 percentage points between 2010 and 2014, surging from 31 percent to 46 percent of adults using the service, according to Connect Puerto Rico’s 2014 broadband survey results released Tuesday.

This change represents an additional 377,000 adults who now subscribe to home broadband service, the study showed.

In addition, broadband deployment on the island continued to increase to meet this increased demand, with 76.9 percent of households having access to fixed broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, the study further noted.

“These achievements note marked improvement in the broadband adoption and availability gaps in Puerto Rico. Four years ago, no household in Puerto Rico had access to 50 Mbps download speeds, and broadband adoption was 31 percent, well below national averages,” Connect Puerto Rico said.

Three years ago, the Puerto Rico Broadband Task Force, administered by Connect Puerto Rico, established aggressive goals of broadband adoption and availability, and the Connect Puerto Rico studies demonstrate that significant progress in meeting those goals has been made, the organization noted.

The results of the study were revealed Tuesday, during the second day of this year’s conference of the Latin American Forum of Telecommunications Regulators, known as REGULATEL. The organization convened in Puerto Rico for the first time, marking the start of Telecommunications Regulatory Board President Javier Rúa-Jovet’s tenure as chairman.

“Since our confirmation to preside the [Telecom Board], we have reiterated the importance of mapping to better understand and plan for state actions with respect to broadband deployment,” said Rúa-Jovet. “Connect Puerto Rico’s contributions to this project have been invaluable. We envision taking this roadmap to the next level by including broadband infrastructure adoption, not just on a residential level, but on the commercial side as well.”

For his part, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla said Puerto Rico’s participation in REGULATEL represents “adding our Caribbean voice to the management of telecom regulations and the search for regional harmony and common interests in international forums.”

The study found, among other things, that:

  • Puerto Rican broadband now pay less on average for their service ($39.47, compared to $42.37 in 2010.) Meanwhile, Puerto Rican households report that they now subscribe to broadband that is more than three times faster, on average, than they did in 2010.
  • Home broadband adoption has grown fastest among lower-income households across the island — among households earning less than $15,000 per year, home broadband adoption has increased by 23 percentage points from 15 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2014.
  • Despite these increases, more than 1.5 million adults still do not have broadband service at home in Puerto Rico.
  • Broadband network capacity has grown. In the last four years, Puerto Rican households with access to 50 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload fixed broadband went from 0 percent to nearly 77 percent and just over half, or 52.9 percent of households, have access to 100 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload fixed broadband.
  • In urban areas of the island, 81.8 percent of households have broadband service available at speeds of 100 Mbps download and1.5 Mbps upload.
  • Between 2011 and 2014, access to cable broadband service of at least 3 Mbps download and 768Kbps upload has increased 15.7 percentage points. For access to the same speed tier, fixed wireless broadband service has increased 32.8 percentage points.
  • Broadband subscribers have self-reported that their advertised download speeds have increased from 3.3 Mbps in 2010 to 11.72 Mbps in 2014.

Gaps remain
Despite the slew of positive results included in the study, Connect Puerto Rico said many gaps remain.

Compared to the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico broadband adoption still trails substantially, and while gigabit networks are now being constructed on the mainland, Puerto Rico homes, businesses, government agencies, and community institutions still lack access to those robust, next-generation networks.

“Broadband Internet access and adoption in all of Puerto Rico is essential for economic development,” said Giancarlo González, chief information officer of Puerto Rico. “Our administration has put forth numerous efforts, which are outlined in the ‘Agenda de Recuperación Económica’ presented this past April 2014. These efforts include the Gigabit Island initiative, which aims to provide Puerto Rico with the necessary infrastructure to provide residents and businesses affordable Gigabit-speed capabilities.”

Connect Puerto Rico has been collecting, validating, and publishing broadband adoption and availability data in Puerto Rico since 2010.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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