The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced today that Puerto Rico Telephone Co. and Liberty Communications are the two winning applicants for Stage 2 fixed broadband support from the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund. They are eligible for a combined $127.1 million in support over 10 years, pending the submission of additional information by 6 p.m. EST on Nov. 17.
Last year, the FCC ordered the allocation of nearly a billion dollars in combined stage 2 support for fixed and mobile broadband service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, intended to restore, expand, and improve the resiliency of broadband facilities, including $504.7 million in stage 2 fixed support to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and $186.5 million in stage 2 fixed support to the U.S. Virgin Islands over a 10-year period (TR Daily, Sept. 26, 2019).
"All winning proposals are for performance tiers above the minimum performance standard of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream speeds. More than two-thirds of the locations in Puerto Rico will have available downstream speeds of at least 100 Mbps, and over 31% of the locations will have available downstream speeds of 1 Gigabit per second," the bureau said in a public notice released today in WC dockets 18-143 and 10-90.
In a press release, the FCC said that "Liberty Communications has committed to offering service to over 914,000 locations, and Puerto Rico Telephone Company will offer service to over 308,000 locations. Liberty Communications won approximately $71.54 million in support to provide high-speed broadband access to all locations in 43 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipios (roughly equivalent to counties on the American mainland). Puerto Rico Telephone Company won approximately $55.56 million in support to provide high-speed broadband access to all locations in the other 35 municipios."
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "These are incredible results! I’m very pleased with the outcome of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund’s Stage 2 Competitive Process. The Fund will bring modern, resilient broadband service of at least 100 Mbps to every location in Puerto Rico—each and every one. As most people know, the island has suffered so much devastation to communications infrastructure from hurricanes in recent years, and even before that, connectivity was a challenge for many. Our decisive action to enable the deployment of resilient, next-generation broadband networks throughout Puerto Rico reflects our determination to close the digital divide, which has been my top priority since becoming Chairman."
Before the bureau will authorize the Universal Service Administrative Co. to begin disbursing the high-cost support, the applicants must submit and certify to its eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation in the municipios for which it has won support, submit irrevocable letters of credit from an eligible bank to cover support amounts, and a legal counsel opinion letter affirming that Puerto Rico bankruptcy laws won’t treat the high-cost support as an asset of the applicant’s bankruptcy estate.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said that the FCC’s announcement "is welcomed news. This important step to closing the digital divide will provide our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico with access to next-generation broadband internet. I will continue working with my colleagues to advance initiatives in support of the Puerto Rican people."
Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R., P.R.) said, "Today’s announcement continues to evidence the commitment made by Chairman Ajit Pai to assist in the recovery of our communications in Puerto Rico, not just by restoring what was there before, but in finally providing up to date connectivity in all our municipalities. This support for expanded access, in partnership with private sector network providers comes at a critical time as so much of our educational and business activity has moved online and will open greater opportunities for our residents and businesses."
Meanwhile, the Wireline Competition Bureau today dismissed as moot Blackburn Technologies LLC’s petition for reconsideration of an order denying it a waiver of the eligibility rule for participation in the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund Stage 2 competitive process, and separate petitions for waiver of certain Stage 2 application rules from Aeronet Wireless Broadband LLC and Critical Hub Networks, Inc.
Noting today’s announcement of the winning bids, the bureau said in an order adopted in WC docket 18-143 that "[n]one of the proposals from Blackburn, Aeronet or Critical Hub received the lowest, winning aggregate score based on price, network performance, and resiliency and redundancy, nor would any of the proposals have received the lowest, winning aggregate score based on price, network performance, and resiliency and redundancy, even if their respective petitions were granted. Accordingly, we dismiss as moot all three petitions." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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