Puerto Rico has announced plans to invest US$17 million in building an ultra-high-speed Internet network, as the Caribbean island embarks on an unprecedented infrastructure project aimed at fueling growth in its technology sector.
The government says the investment will yield $289 million in revenue in the years ahead.
“This is transformative technology that will lead to even more innovation and creativity in Puerto Rico’s strong and growing tech sector,” said Alberto Bacó Bagué, Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development (DDEC).
The multi-phase infrastructure project, nicknamed Gigabit Island, will establish a high-speed fiber-optic network, serving both residents and businesses in Old San Juan, Miramar, Isla Verde and the Santurce district.
The initiative, according to reports, is similar to Google’s pilot project in Kansas City that provides Internet service at one gigabyte per second – up to 200 times faster than normal. “Gigabit Island will reach that same speed,” Bagué said.
The new fiber network is due to be up and running by the end of 2015. “Upon the project’s completion, Puerto Rico will be able to provide high-speed Internet access to 85 percent of private businesses and 65 percent of homes by 2016,” said the Puerto Rico government in a press release.
“Traditionally, the sales of cement were one of the key economic indicators. Perhaps, we are not building so much nowadays, but maybe technology could become an economic indicator. Access to broadband and an advanced infrastructure can make the difference. For each 10 percent of internet penetration represents a 1% growth in the GDP. For each $1 invested in technology, gives back $5 and $18 to the economy. By contributing to strengthen broadband and Open Data infrastructure, we are supporting the economy,” said Puerto Rico CIO Giancarlo Gonzalez.
The plan was unveiled at a recent Tech Summit attended by more than 800 IT firms and tech startups from across the country. Puerto Rico says it wants to focus on cloud computing technologies, software-as-a- service and enterprise security.
Several global technology companies, including HP, Microsoft and Infosys, are operating in Puerto Rico. The unincorporated U.S. territory also recently hosted a hackathon, in which 125 developers were tasked with creating apps to provide solutions to help the government provide easier access and better services to its citizens.