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NTIA OKs Puerto Rico’s $334M petition to expand broadband

The island is now among the first 10 states and territories to receive approval to begin deploying expansion plans.

Puerto Rico’s $334 million proposal to launch a three-pronged broadband expansion program that would benefit low-income consumers as well as service providers, has been approved by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

In a press release, the agency confirmed that it also gave the go-ahead to plans submitted by Illinois and Oregon, placing the three jurisdictions among the first 10 states and territories to receive funding under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

This approval enables Illinois, Oregon, and Puerto Rico to request access to funding and begin implementation of the BEAD program — “a major step toward closing the digital divide and meeting the president’s goal of connecting everyone in America with affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service,” the fancy said.

Illinois is receiving more than $1 billion, while Oregon has been allocated more than $688 million, according to an NTIA press release.

“These BEAD funds will make a huge difference in Puerto Rico, since they will help us ensure that our island has the necessary broadband infrastructure and that all our citizens have the internet access, tech assistance and training they need and deserve,” said Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

“The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program Capital Projects Fund will be used for initiatives to reach disadvantaged communities and remote areas and we are already hard at work to build sustainable growth and progress through an all-inclusive ambitious investment in the technology our citizens need for their future. I again thank the Biden-Harris Administration for their unwavering support,” he added.

Last week, News is my Business interviewed Michelle Cabiya, executive director of the Puerto Rico Broadband Program, who confirmed that funding through the BEAD program will cover several aspects of the island’s initiative — the launch of the Affordable Device and Partnership Program, infrastructure projects, and equity and access projects.

At the time, Cabiya said the local government was confident that the funding announcement would happen soon.

“Bringing quality, affordable high-speed internet to every corner of the country is a crucial part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. In the 21st century, a reliable internet connection is a necessity that facilitates access to jobs, health care and education — and thanks to President Biden, everyone in Illinois, Oregon and Puerto Rico will get that access to the Internet,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “I congratulate the teams in Illinois, Oregon and Puerto Rico for their tremendous work to close the digital divide.”  

The BEAD program is a $42.4 billion state grant program authorized by Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The states, territories and Washington, D.C. were allocated funding to deploy or upgrade high-speed internet networks to ensure access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet service.  

“The Internet is an essential tool for not only communicating and connecting, but securing America’s economic future,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “The Department of Commerce’s ‘Internet for All’ initiative is taking meaningful action to provide every American with reliable, affordable high-speed internet. Illinois, Oregon, and Puerto Rico’s BEAD proposals will create thousands of new jobs, connect countless communities, and write the next chapter of American prosperity.”

Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used on high-speed internet adoption, training and workforce development efforts, among other eligible uses.

“Today, Illinois, Oregon and Puerto Rico can move their Internet for All efforts from planning to action,” said Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator. “I congratulate the Illinois, Oregon and Puerto Rico Broadband offices for developing a strong proposal for how they will connect all of their residents to high-speed internet service.”

BEAD-eligible entities — the 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia — are required to submit for NTIA’s approval an initial proposal detailing how they plan to spend their BEAD allocation to deliver high-speed Internet access to all unserved and underserved locations within their borders. All states submitted their Initial Proposals by Dec. 27, 2023.  

NTIA provides updates on the status of all 56 states and territories’ initial proposal and will continue to announce approval of initial proposals on a rolling basis, it stated.

One year from initial proposal approval, states must submit a final proposal that details, among other things, the outcome of the subgrantee selection process and how the state will ensure universal coverage.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 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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