The Federal Communications Commission has approved roughly $500 million for broadband coverage in Puerto Rico from a total budget of $950 million for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands. There will be another $250 million for mobile coverage.
Funds were committed in 2017 for repair of destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. The new funding is designed to “improve, expand, and harden” telecommunications in the territories.
According to Broadband Now, 61% of the population of Puerto Rico currently has access to broadband internet, but 56% are still considered “underserved.” Local business owners tell us they rely on backups — having more than one internet provider. This extra layer of effort and cost will no longer be needed when the FCC completes their efforts.
The goal is to provide reliable broadband internet access for all homes and businesses in Puerto Rico. This improvement can be expected to increase the appeal of Puerto Rico as a business location. The message that “Puerto Rico is open for business” is strengthened by improvements in logistics and infrastructure on the Island.
Where will the money go?
The FCC approval calls for a bidding process to identify carriers who can meet standards of price and robust networks. The specific criteria:
- Price per location served
- Network performance (speed and latency)
- Network resilience and redundancy
The funds for mobile networks are expected to go to existing carriers in each municipality. These carriers can use up to 75% of the funds to harden their existing networks — that is, to make their networks strong enough to resist damage in future natural disasters. They can use 25% of the funds to speed up their networks to 35/3 Mbps. This refers to megabytes per second, the measurement of speed for uploads and downloads of data on the networks.
Recipients must have up to date disaster preparedness plans.
One member of the FCC wanted more information and better reporting on the use of the money that has been provided so far. This did not prevent the approval of the funds. However, given the evidence that red tape and a lack of confidence have been part of the reason the federal government has held up funds, Puerto Rico has an opportunity to improve this aspect of the infrastructure and logistics as well.
The result will be a greater level of disaster preparedness, improved standard of living on the Island, and a better business environment.
Thanks to President Trump and to the FCC for taking this important step!