A federally funded project possible thanks to a $25.7 million dollar grant from the US Department of Commerce, the PRBI has been around in one form or another since 2010. The brainchild of Carlo Marazzi, Critical Hub Networks' president, the PRBI was born out of an April 2010 round table discussion on Puerto Rico's Internet. Identifying four key barriers to broadband improvement, we would go on to create a proposal for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that led to the creation of the Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative.
With the ARRA fund grant, the help of partner ISPs, and Critical Hub Networks' guidance and management, the PRBI was born. Fully operational since the start of the PRBI's second quarter, the project has already installed and activated a 10Gbps undersea fiber-optic cable to Miami. This effectively creates a broadband bridge to the United States mainland. We are currently in the process of deploying a 180 mile plus terrestrial middle-mile microwave network throughout Puerto Rico. Using 24 key sites that are spread throughout the island, our network will help reach all the unserved and underserved areas of Puerto Rico.
While a beautiful island in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico faces a series of challenges that have made it difficult for high-speed Internet to be widespread on our island. Puerto Rico is the lowest ranked on the Communication Workers of America's 2010 United States' bandwidth speed test. To make it worse, the United States is 15th behind other industrialized countries in high speed Internet adoption, and 28th in Internet speeds. In a 2009 report, this negative trend continued.
Let's look at this at a larger scale: South Korea has a 95% broadband penetration rate. Denmark checks in at 82%, while the United States has a 67% penetration. Puerto Rico only has a 31% broadband usage rate. This means that out of 4 million residents, approximately 911,000 islanders have broadband service at home. With this in mind, Critical Hub Networks invited Puerto Rican service providers to a roundtable discussion. In this meeting, four key challenges for broadband development and expansion in Puerto Rico were pinpointed. These are:
|1. Last-mile infrastructure construction.
|2. Cost associated with crossing the island; Intra-Island-Middle-Mile.
|3. Digital Divide.
|4. Backbone costs: Off-Island-Middle-Mile or Backbone Interconnection.
The Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative is addressing these challenges in order to help all of Puerto Rico connect to a faster, more affordable broadband Internet.
Our motto represents our principal goal: fast, affordable broadband Internet for all. However, we have additional aims for Puerto Rico's Internet expansion:
|1. Make broadband universally available and affordable for all of Puerto Rico's residents.
|2. Increase broadband speeds and reduce per megabit prices.
|3. Mandate all PRBI ISPs to offer a 25 % discount to all educational institutions, libraries, healthcare and public safety providers.
|4. Provide peering to local government agencies.
|5. Help eliminate the digital divide by encouraging the development of Public Computer Access and Training Centers in unserved and underserved communities.
|6. Encourage competition and provide Puerto Ricans with a choice of broadband providers.
With the broadband bridge connecting Puerto Rico to the mainland and the deployment of our wireless network, Puerto Rico will take giant steps toward complete insular connectivity. By bringing together service providers, government, and Internet users we head towards using the Internet as a tool towards the island's socioeconomical development.