Liberty Puerto Rico is upholding its bet on Puerto Rico, despite ongoing economic turmoil, investing to expand its coverage area, make multiple improvements to its network and contribute to the island’s development, company President Naji Khoury said Monday.
The company’s expansion plans call for adding thousands of new homes to its coverage area and increasing its bandwidth to 1.2 GHz. These efforts will expand broadband internet access in Puerto Rico and improve the island’s telecommunication platform — crucial factors for socioeconomic development, he said.
The company said it invested some $91 million last year and is on track to spend a similar amount this year.
In 2017, Liberty plans to add approximately 25,000 homes to its coverage area. The highest impact areas include the municipalities of Morovis, Naranjito, San Sebastián, Las Piedras, Salinas, Patillas, Corozal, Hatillo, Bayamón, Carolina, Guaynabo and, later this year, Maricao, the only municipality in the main island that was not previously covered by Liberty. These new homes would join the other 30,000 that Liberty has added since 2015.
“Through these projects, we are providing equal access to urban as well as barrios and rural areas, and providing Puerto Ricans the same opportunity to have access to broadband Internet regardless of their socioeconomic level,” said Khoury.
“Broadband internet is a very important tool for economic development and a better quality of life. Making this service available for everyone is essential for Puerto Rico’s recovery and economic development,” he said.
The company plans to move forward with its broadband expansion despite a decision by the Federal Communications Commission in February to cancel the inclusion of new providers, including Liberty Puerto Rico, in its Lifeline subsidies program, which would have benefitted an undetermined number of low-income families on the island.
The program has yet to get off the ground, as the FCC is taking a closer look at the rules, to prevent it from being prone to fraud.
“We want to re-apply, but the process hasn’t opened yet. A second round would expand broadband support to companies like ours. Still, we’re moving forward in expanding broadband to rural areas, our investors are committed to this,” Khoury said.
Liberty has been making improvements in its existing infrastructure through its 1.2 GHz project. This will provide all homes in the expansion project broadband speeds of up to 400 Mbps. This initiative began in 2015, along with the new build project, in Puerto Rico’s eastern region and has been gradually expanding westward.
Among the municipalities that are already enjoying this service are Caguas, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Loíza, Naguabo, Humacao, Yabucoa, Gurabo, Juncos and Las Piedras. Upgrades in the entire island should be completed in the next three years.
The bandwidth upgrade will give all these homes a state-of-the art connection that will provide an Internet service with less congestion and higher speeds. This will not only accommodate a growing demand for this service, but also facilitate the use of multiple electronic devices without sacrificing bandwidth or speed. In addition, subscribers will also have access to more digital channels and On Demand options, he said.
Crews in most of the new build zones are using a procedure called Fiber Deep, in which fiber optic cables are installed closer to the homes. This means that customers in these areas will have higher speeds and a more stable and consistent broadband Internet signal.
The company is also investing in its facilities, opening new service centers, remodeling offices and increasing its technical services vehicle fleet. In addition, the company continues to hire and train Puerto Rican professionals, sustaining 947 direct jobs, outsourcing approximately 461 people, and generating approximately 1,500 indirect jobs in Puerto Rico. This year, Liberty will hire 40 additional employees.
The company is also investing in its customer service centers — in Luquillo, Aguadilla and the Dominican Republic — to reduce wait time for technical service appointments, at-store service, and customer representative calls.
Finally, Khoury said the company said it will continue investing in Puerto Rico, with a “belief in the future, despite the unknowns. We will survive any further downturn, which many are predicting.”
“You can say that we’re building a building with a strong foundation that will go through several earthquakes, but it will survive,” he said.
As for pricing, Khoury said the idea will continue to be offering different price points to allow customers to choose between different packages to get what they use, or just to save money.