Practical Techie: PrepaNet looks to repurpose itself
Rebranding goes on all the time in the cyber world, and it’s not a surprise that the usually beleaguered government-owned PrepaNetworks has creatively done so these days. It’s now goes by the brand of HUB Advanced Networks, LLC.
Since its origins in 2004, PrepaNet has sought to commercialize it services at business and residential levels. But too many legal obstacles have beset the consortium by both competitors and the government itself.
BACKSTORY — PrepaNet is a subsidiary of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and uses much of its the utility’s distribution infrastructure. PrepaNet wants to repurpose itself from retail to a wholesale telecommunications network offering next-generation fiber optics island wide and overseas via marine cable, according to a company press release. PrepaNet at present is the only internet provider in Vieques and Culebra.
In 2013, PrepaNet acquired a new $26 million headquarters in Isla Verde, near the airport, major hotels and strip malls that need wideband internet connectivity. News is my Business reported then that PREPA Networks provided fiber optic infrastructure services to Puerto Rico telecom carriers.
By 2008, it acquired Telecommunicaciones Ultramarinas de Puerto Rico integrating international access and facilities into its services portfolio. As a result, PrepaNet “became the largest and fiber optic infrastructure provider in Puerto Rico,” according to news reports.
At that time, PrepaNet went on a marketing spree to provide IoT services to all, of Puerto Rico, a move that generated immediate legal opposition from private international telecommunications firms in Puerto Rico. They considered PrepaNet unfair competition because as a public corporation, it was exempt from tax schedules, patents, permits and the strict regulations applied to more commercial firms.
BESIEGED — In 2016, the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board shot down PREPA’s claims that the regulator lacks jurisdiction in a fight over rates and access to public utilities launched last year by Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, it was reported.
In an 11-page decision, the TRB defended its duties against the utility, which claimed it is not a telecom company, although it has been engaging in this type of business through subsidiary PrepaNet for more than a decade.
The TRB’s resolve is the latest development in a case that began in June 2015, when Liberty filed a complaint stating that PREPA is illegally funding telecom operations it is carrying out via PrepaNet, and that those subsidies allow it to sell its services below costs.
The competitors also claimed PrepaNet has established “unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory” charges to telecom companies that need to use the utility’s facilities to provide services.
A year later, through legislation, PrepaNet was blocked from participating in the telecommunications market with its development of a fiber optic system. The blockage occurred when the Commonwealth Senate approved the Fair Competition in Telecommunications, Information and Paid Television Services in Puerto Rico, which impedes the government and its entities from providing retail telecommunications services on the island. The bill was not signed by then outgoing Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla.
Critics said the bill was too restrictive.
In 2020, tribulation came from other quarters. The Federal Oversight Board ordered PrepaNet to be sold, as a separate entity from PREPA, which was also to be privatized.
Gov.-elect Pedro Pierluisi said during a televised political debate among candidates that he wants to use PrepaNet actively to help close the digital gap in Puerto Rico. More than 60% of homes on the island lack proper connectivity, much less quality broad band service. What happens next remains to be seen.
HUB — The new focus is to turn the Isla Verde headquarters into a flagship telecom facility. A top data center, now branded as HUB Advanced Networks, to offer wholesale digital infrastructure and connectivity for cyber innovation enterprise all over the Caribbean.
Its mainstay business will have four revenue streams: special purpose real estate for innovators, special facilities for developers, wholesale optical services and the backbone data center. HUB Advanced Networks has 668 miles of fiber optic infrastructure and proposes to market at least 230 miles for technology services through PREPA power lines, according to the press release.
It will market the offerings through IoT, small cells, smart cities, virtual collaboration, high-performance networks, cybersecurity, project management and cloud computing from the data center, baptized as HUB787.
“The name change is an extension of the mission and vision of the company… by providing reliable telecommunications infrastructure and technology services that promote progress and innovation,” said José Casillas, CEO of HUB Advanced Networks, LLC.