Universal Service Fund Reform Expected to Have Significant Impact on Broadband Penetration
San Juan, PR. (November 10, 2011) – Yesterday, Puerto Rico Chief Information Officer Juan Eugenio Rodriguez de Hostos in a joint presentation with Sandra Torres, President of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Board, released the latest Connect Puerto Rico broadband availability maps and data at the Puerto Rico Telecom Conference 2011.
Both also offered insights into the right kind of legislative environment for promoting the type of technology modernization necessary for Puerto Rico to realize a vibrant and robust digital future.
New data estimates indicate that 86% of households have broadband available at basic connection speeds (768 kbps download/200 kbps upload speeds). The estimate drops significantly when looking at higher connection speeds necessary to support Internet applications that consumers are increasingly demanding, such as video streaming. An estimated 41% of households across the island have broadband available at speeds of 6 Mbps/768 kbps or higher.
These facts were highlighted by Governor Luis G. Fortuño in his October 17, 2011, letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of sound reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF), a program that distributes over $8 billion annually across the USA and territories, and approximately $270 million across Puerto Rico.
On October 27, the FCC voted to reform and modernize the USF program. This reform will transition the USF program currently subsidizing voice telephony to a new Connect America Fund that will instead support broadband expansion.
The Connect Puerto Rico broadband inventory map demonstrates that Puerto Rico is lagging behind most areas in high-speed broadband penetration. As a result, the USF reform underway will have a drastic impact across Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico has made positive strides to address technology challenges — a prime example being the creation of a Broadband Task Force, composed of individuals representing varied community sectors to inform the development of a Strategic Broadband Plan for Puerto Rico,” said Rodríguez de Hostos.
A coalition of private and public stakeholders including Governor Fortuño’s administration and Representative Pierluisi, as well as private members of the Puerto Rico Broadband Task Force (PRBT) are working collaboratively with the FCC to ensure that the reforms underway will help bridge the broadband gap across the island estimated by Connect Puerto Rico. The PRBT has focused on preparing for the knowledge economy through broadband. The PRBT is developing a strategic broadband plan for sustainable technology expansion in Puerto Rico.
“During 2011, the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Board has allocated approximately $1 million to establish free Public Computing Centers throughout the island, one in each municipality. The establishment of these centers is to reduce the digital divide by making sure all Puerto Rico communities have broadband access. As of today, two centers have been opened, in Moca and Toa Alta, and 4 more are in the final stages,” said Torres.
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