A key U.S. government official in charge of implementing federal broadband projects throughout the nation said she was pleased with the three local projects started last year.
Puerto Rico broadband coverage has increased to 50 percent of the island’s surface and 30 percent of the island’s 1.2 million homes are connected to this service, placing the island ahead of many Caribbean and Latin American countries but well behind the U.S. national average.
Broadband penetration in the U.S. covers 90 percent of the country, where 65 percent of the houses have an Internet connection. Broadband is measured at 3 megabits per second or more. Two-thirds of U.S. households have broadband connectivity versus one-third on the island.
Three local Internet projects funded with federal money have received the approval of its management and execution — projects that are assisting the growth of Internet penetration in Puerto Rico. Critical Hub Networks received $25.7 million; INTECO received $12 million; and the governor’s office $2.5 million — all with the purpose of expanding the availability of broadband throughout the island.
The three Puerto Rico grants were among the 230 grants provided nationwide. The Commerce Department received more than 3,000 applications and picked the most sustainable projects. The key factors in granting the funds were: to have an experienced and competent management team, the resources available to build and operate the network, and a plan for business continuity.
Anna Gómez, deputy assistant secretary for communications and information and deputy administrator of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), who visited the island to oversee the projects funded by her department, was pleased with the progress of the three projects.
In April 2010, Critical Hub was awarded $25.7 million in Recovery Act funds through NTIA for the creation of the Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative (PRBI), a project designed to bring fast, affordable broadband service to all of Puerto Rico. On Wednesday, Gómez toured Critical Hub’s facilities in Santurce. Gómez also delivered the keynote speech at the 2011 Puerto Rico Telecom Conference presented by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce.
“”The Obama Administration is committed to increasing broadband access and adoption in the U.S., which is a key ingredient for job creation and sustainable economic growth. Recovery Act broadband projects will help to increase broadband Internet access so that more Puerto Ricans are able participate in the 21st century digital economy and fully enjoy the benefits of broadband,” stated Gómez.
The Daily Sun spoke with Gómez before boarding a plane back to Washington, D.C. “We are very happy with the work done by Critical Hub — very enthusiastic indeed since they have completed the project and we are seeing the benefits. The INTECO project is also doing well; we feel they will be able to complete all the required work on the established deadline,” said Gómez. The $2.5 million fund to the governor’s office was provided to create a broadband map and creating strategies for closing the digital divide.
Asked about the difference between the stateside and island penetration, Gómez explained that “some people perceive they do not need it. We need a better understanding of why there is a lower adoption versus the availability itself - once you know the reasons then you can develop a strategy of getting more people online.”
In an interview with the Daily Sun, Eduardo Díaz, president of the Puerto Rico Chapter of the Internet Society said “we support the development of this project for it brings the Internet closer to more people. We understand that it will help increase the adoption of Broadband in Puerto Rico,” said Díaz.
“We are honored to have Ms. Gómez visit our facilities,” said Karen Larson, senior vice president of Critical Hub Networks. “The Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative project - funded by the NTIA - is working hard to bring fast, affordable broadband to all residents of the island. The collaboration with all of the island’s broadband providers is key to bridging the deep digital divide that exists here in Puerto Rico,” said Larson.