The Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board has set the ball rolling on an initiative to gather data from the island’s broadband providers to define the sector’s contributions to the economy, with results expected to be ready in a year, agency President Javier Rúa-Jovet said Wednesday.
During his participation in this year’s third edition of the Puerto Rico Tech Summit, Rúa-Jovet said the effort involves a number of other government agencies — the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute and the Puerto Rico Planning Board, among others — as well as the participation of private-sector companies, including Claro, Liberty Puerto Rico and Columbus Networks.
Leading the project is Raquel Noriega, economist and former Connect Puerto Rico executive, who said there are a number of aspects that will be explored: generating the necessary data to evaluate technological trends and subsequently translating that data into concrete economic indicators.
“We’ll be determining which types of metrics we should be collecting and will continue to prepare broadband maps to see what the island’s network capacity is,” she said. “We’re looking at putting together basic statistics such as total sector investments and job creation, but direct and indirect. Basic statistics that, if exist, are not published regularly and don’t receive the scope they deserve.”
Mario Marazzi, executive director of the Statistics Institute, said the agency he heads will fully back the effort, which depends on whether all service providers are willing to participate in the committee and can agree on the data that is needed.
“It’s important that we begin to measure the industry and soon,” he said. “For me it’s urgent, but I believe that isn’t enough. The sector has to believe it’s urgent, the providers need to believe it’s urgent.”
He suggested that the committee assembled to collect the data try to differentiate between broadband used for local consumption, versus the traffic used for local production.
“This distinction is crucial in economics,” he said. “There are several indicators that suggest that in terms of consumption of Internet, broadband and social media, Puerto Rico ranks high on a global scale. That’s neither good nor bad. We’re known to consume a lot. But there is a call for also producing in that sector.”
In that sense, Félix Lugo, Felix Lugo, country manager for Columbus Business Solutions in Puerto Rico, said there are mechanisms in place, such as Acts 20/22 that provide the incentives needed to export broadband-based products and services.
“Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions with the most fiber optic infrastructure per square mile and with the most connectivity capacity in the Americas,” he said, noting the tools are there to spur innovation.
Broadband project enters proposals phase
Earlier in the day, the TRB said two companies have been identified as would-be providers for the Vía Digital project that seeks to enable the deployment of broadband infrastructure, including fiber optic for high speed Internet in areas of Santurce, Miramar and Río Piedras.
“We’re pleased that the process of evaluating and qualifying companies was completed as scheduled and we’ve already identified two companies that successfully met the requirements of the project,” Rúa-Jovet said.
“Both companies must submit proposals in the coming weeks specific for the development of Vía Digital to be evaluated by the committee and to begin the construction phase scheduled for the third quarter of 2015,” he said.
The start of the construction phase will pave the way for the first deployment of broadband infrastructure that will not only have a positive impact at the environmental level, but which in turn will benefit the economic development of the zone, its residents, and the education sector, among other sectors, “said Rúa-Jovet.
Vía Digital consists of using 55,000 linear feet of underground ducts along Fernández Juncos, Muñoz Rivera and Ponce de León Avenues to deploy fiber optic technology. The project will abide by the DigOnce/DigZero standard, which will spare participating companies the need to obtain permits and incur in additional construction costs.