The Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, has announced the official launch of the ‘Gigabit Island’ plan, with the goal that in five years 99% of households will have access to download speeds of at least 10Mbps, while 1Gbps services should be accessible in 70% of homes within the same timeframe. As reported by Telesemana, the Gigabit programme is guided by the public-private Puerto Rico Broadband Taskforce (PRBT) under a remit to continue the work accomplished by Puerto Rico’s Strategic Plan for Broadband (2012), and the current strategy recommends a number of actions to promote the development of broadband, including: continuing geographical broadband expansion; beginning work on monitoring, measurement and evaluation of the impact of broadband on the economy; lowering costs of building broadband systems; ensuring access to poles, ducts and other public and private sites for the deployment of infrastructure; and promoting public-private partnerships to stimulate local demand. According to the executive summary of the Gigabit Island plan, by June 2014 around 77.8% of households were covered by broadband access networks with speeds of at least 10Mbps (download)/1.5Mbps (upstream), while an estimated 52.9% of households had the possibility of connecting at 100Mbps (download). Additionally, the report notes that 99.9% of households in the country had mobile broadband coverage with speeds of ‘up to 3Mbps downstream and 768kbps upload’.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the US – the top-level regulator for the broadband sector in Puerto Rico – last month set a new ‘benchmark’ minimum broadband speed of 25Mbps (downlink) and 3Mbps (uplink). Ongoing public-private broadband initiatives in Puerto Rico include the incumbent telco Claro’s rural broadband initiative, which is part-funded by the FCC.
In a related development, Puerto Rican operator Critical Hub Networks announced in a press release yesterday (24 February 2015) that since launching its Optico Fiber 1Gbps symmetrical fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband service in June last year it now covers more than 25 neighbourhoods (‘fiberhoods’) in San Juan. Optico Fiber is offered under a model similar to Google Fiber in the US, with availability in communities known as fiberhoods which meet minimum signup goals; residents register their requests for service through the Optico website. Various San Juan communities including Punta Las Marias, Ocean Park, Baldrich, Roosevelt, La Merced, Miramar and Campo Alegre are now enjoying the 1Gbps service. ‘Our initial deployment of Optico is in the San Juan area’, said Carlo Marazzi, president of Critical Hub Networks, adding: ‘However, we will be expanding outside of the San Juan area. We open fiberhoods where we see sufficient interest from residents, community leaders, and municipal government to make the deployment feasible.’