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Puerto Rico gets $334.6M to deploy broadband infrastructure

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that Puerto Rico will receive $334.6 million to deploy “affordable, reliable” high-speed internet service.

At present, 61,871 homes and small businesses in Puerto Rico lack access to a high-speed internet connection, the federal agency stated.

The funding is part of the global $42.45 billion allocation from the Broadband Equity, Access  and Deployment (BEAD) program to each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories. 

“With today’s announcement, we’re delivering on President Biden’s promise to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to everyone,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. “This historic investment in Puerto Rico’s connectivity will close the digital divide and create new opportunities for hardworking families living on the archipelago.”  

The BEAD funding will be used to deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to high-speed Internet service. Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used on broadband adoption, training and workforce development efforts, among other eligible uses. 

“This BEAD allocation is yet another milestone in the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to delivering for the people of Puerto Rico,” said Deputy Commerce Secretary and Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator Don Graves. “Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, Puerto Ricans across the archipelago will soon benefit from the transformative potential of reliable and affordable high-speed Internet for necessities like healthcare, education and employment.” 

The multimillion-dollar allocation to Puerto Rico is added to some $400 million in local funds to improve connectivity throughout the island, as well as a first disbursement of $100 million, of which $5 million are earmarked for planning efforts to develop projects that help close the digital divide in Puerto Rico, said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

“Puerto Rico has proven to be one of the jurisdictions with the best results and the fastest pace it has achieved thanks to the various initiatives that we have promoted under the Smart Island program,” he said.

“This historic allocation represents greater access to funds that will allow us to improve the critical telecommunications infrastructure on the island, so that we have a resilient system that provides all of Puerto Rico with high-speed internet access,” the governor said, noting the work to attain the new funding began about six months ago.

Since the start of the Smart Island program, and in partnership with municipalities, nonprofit organizations, the federal government and the support of residents through the connectivity survey, nearly 100,000 localities with specific needs have been identified, such as those having internet download speeds of less than 25 megabits per second. Some locations that do not have the internet infrastructure to connect are mountainous or difficult-to-access regions.

Enrique Völckers-Nin, executive director of the Smart Island program, who was invited to make the announcement together with President Biden, said: “Our agenda is undoubtedly ambitious, broad, but very promising. We’re completely focused on achieving connectivity for the entire island so that Puerto Ricans have high-speed internet.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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