Puerto Rico gov’t earmarks $400M to expand broadband to unserved areas
The Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, or AAFAF, released a Request for Proposals to select an administrator for what it is calling the Broadband Infrastructure Fund, to expand the service into Puerto Rico’s rural areas.
The government will allocate $400 million during Fiscal 2021 to support expansion efforts in unserved and underserved areas and outside the metropolitan area through grants that fund a portion of broadband deployment costs in these communities.
Historically, delivering internet and regular phone service to remote and rural areas to the so-called “last mile” has been a challenge for carriers, as it is the costliest aspect of providing telecom access.
AAFAF Executive Director Omar Marrero said that to accelerate growth in broadband access throughout Puerto Rico, particularly in unserved, underserved areas or areas outside the metropolitan area, the selected fund administrator will undertake a baseline assessment of the existing state of broadband provision in Puerto Rico.
In addition, based on this assessment, the administrator will establish a grant program for broadband service providers according to a Grant Administration Agreement.
“Without a doubt, broadband provides numerous socio-economic benefits to communities and individuals, including enabling remote education, increasing business productivity and providing access to better healthcare,” Marrero said.
“In our administration we want to provide enhanced opportunities for the people of Puerto Rico through better and more equal access to education, healthcare, and information,” he said.
The government official added that “many jurisdictions are investing and promoting broadband provision as part of their initiatives to transform their networks into more strategic assets.”
So, broadband benefits the government, the private sector and the public in general, and may drive economic growth in rural areas.
“Broadband infrastructure is essential in our modern economy. Providing the necessary resources will translate into more competitive businesses and enhanced prosperity for our communities,” Marrero said.
“In rural areas, broadband support is even more important because it allows to expand services to the citizenry in a manner never before seen, particularly, in the areas of security, health and education, as well as in other economic sectors related to agriculture,” he added.
The deadline to submit proposals is Nov. 4, 2020. The RFP is available in the AAFAF website.