In today’s global economy, broadband, or high-speed Internet, is an essential infrastructure asset for social inclusion, economic competitiveness, and sustainability. Policy makers around the world have recognized this and are working to close the digital divide by promoting access to high-speed broadband infrastructure, universal adoption of the technology across all segments of society, and increased utilization across key strategic sectors, such as education, healthcare, and the provision of government services. Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of our time, and ensuring universal access, adoption, and utilization is essential to maintain a vibrant and competitive economy and society.
The impact of broadband technology is perhaps nowhere more acute than in an island economy such as Puerto Rico. As Puerto Rico makes gradual recovery from the current economic downturn, a robust, ubiquitous, fast broadband infrastructure is essential to attract foreign direct investment that will generate the jobs and opportunities needed to sustain Puerto Rico’s competitiveness; it is essential for companies to efficiently interact with their business peers and reach existing customers and new markets; it is essential to ensure that professionals have access to remote jobs and training opportunities previously beyond their reach; and it is essential to ensure that students can access educational resources beyond the confines of their schools, universities, or neighborhoods.
Broadband will ensure that students in Puerto Rico’s schools and universities have the same access to distance learning opportunities as those on the U.S. mainland. Through telemedicine, enabled by very fast broadband, patients will receive better quality of healthcare and access to doctors worldwide, and healthcare practitioners can provide services in remote areas where healthcare providers are scarce at a fraction of current costs. Broadband is also essential to ensure that both the Puerto Rico Government and local jurisdictions can deliver better and more cost-effective government services to Puerto Rico citizens and ensure that law enforcement officials and first responders have the necessary technology to effectively protect our communities.
Broadband enables all this and much more. To make these goals a reality we must work to ensure a robust, fast, ubiquitous network, universally adopted and used across all segments and sectors of society.
Understanding this challenge, the Puerto Rico Broadband Taskforce (PRBT) was formed in 2011 with two key objectives: to ascertain the size and scope of the digital divide in Puerto Rico and identify strategies to close it and, armed with such strategic recommendations, to steer public and private stakeholders across Puerto Rico and the U.S. to action. The PRBT is a non-governmental, public-private partnership conceived by the Chief Information Officer of Puerto Rico, the President of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, and the Internet Society of Puerto Rico, that joined forces to establish a non-partisan committee that includes key stakeholders in the broadband ecosystem.
The PRBT is composed of 12 members including, along with its founding members, representatives from the broadband provider community, information and communication technology providers, K-12 education stakeholders, the higher-education community, healthcare professionals, local government, grassroots community groups working to address the digital divide in their communities, and private sector groups for whom broadband is an essential investment asset. Connect Puerto Rico, a subsidiary of Connected Nation, a not-for-profit working across the U.S. to help bridge the digital divide, worked with the PRBT in this effort by conducting research and supporting development of this plan.