Gov’t publishes 5-yr. plan for broadband deployment in Puerto Rico
The executive director of the Puerto Rico government’s Smart Island program, Enrique Völckers-Nin, announced that the five-year Action Plan required by the program was submitted before the deadline, complying with the requirements established by the federal government.
“The agenda is ambitious, comprehensive, but necessary to increase the accessibility of citizens to high-speed internet, while we improve connectivity and the resilience of telecommunications in Puerto Rico,” said Völckers-Nin, who is also the commonwealth’s deputy secretary for Innovation, Information, Data and Technology.
As detailed in the plan, the internet is considered an essential service for studying, working, receiving medical care, communicating and more. This is one of the reasons why the development of projects that improve the telecommunications infrastructure has “become very important,” it reads.
In response to the need for a resilient telecom system, the main objective of the Smart Island program is to coordinate the construction of broadband infrastructure and authorize programs that support residents’ access to the service.
“This program is focused on actively collaborating with government agencies, the federal government, community organizations and components of the Puerto Rico telecommunications industry to ensure that all Puerto Ricans, even in the most remote areas of the island, have access to the necessary resources that allow them to enjoy high-speed internet so that they can receive the services they need in an accessible and immediate manner,” Völckers-Nin said.
The four pillars of the program are focused on guaranteeing connectivity for all residential, commercial and government structures in Puerto Rico; ensuring quality and speed in connectivity that reaches the home, business or office, with a minimum recurring capacity of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload speeds; providing accessibility so that everyone can access high-speed internet reliably and affordably; and fostering basic knowledge of technology and digital tools.
Under the Smart Island program, projects have been developed to improve connectivity, quality and accessibility. One such project is the investment of $50 million for the Public Wi-Fi Program (Puerto Rico Wi-Fi Public Access) which, in its first phase, will create 190 public Wi-Fi spaces across 46 municipalities.
Identifying the locations was worked on jointly with the municipalities, and these range from libraries, public buildings that offer services and public beaches to community centers, parks, walking areas, ferry terminals and lookout points, among others.
The federal government has already recognized the implementation of the Internet Subsidy Program in Puerto Rico, the official said.
Meanwhile, $30 million was allocated for Internet Resilience and Hardening, a program that will distribute funds to local internet providers to improve their infrastructure to ensure it is more resilient in the face of adverse situations. With these funds, providers can purchase equipment such as backup generators, solar panels and batteries, ensuring uninterrupted service during emergencies.
In coming months, a design project will begin with an estimated investment of more than $300 million in federal and local funds to build and bury optical fiber, Völckers-Nin said.
The plan will be accessible and available in Spanish next week.