The governor Pedro Pierluisi announced this Monday the disbursement of $15 million in state funds for the first phase of a project that seeks to offer energy resilience to private companies that provide internet and telecommunications services, under an initiative called “Smart Island.”
The money comes from a $400 million allocation that the government has reserved for broadband and telecommunications connectivity projects in Puerto Rico, with the endorsement of the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF).
In turn, the funds are part of the government’s budget for this fiscal year, Pierluisi pointed out.
It was reported that the second phase of the project, which – according to the executive director of the Puerto Rico Broadband Program, Enrique Völckers-Nin– will begin in the “next few weeks”, it will be nourished by another $15 million in state funds to impact “other areas”, such as the place where the beneficiary companies have their towers, distribution centers or offices.
“These funds that we are announcing today will be provided to 10 internet providers throughout the island. so that they can acquire electric generators, solar panels and batteries, and thus be able to ensure service without interruptions in case of an emergency“said the first executive in a press conference.
“The selected projects are of rapid implementation, in order to have an alternate energy backup for its telecommunications infrastructure and minimize the loss of internet and telecommunications connectivity on the island,” he added.
The companies selected for the first phase were: Aero Net with $2,018,195.77 for diesel generators; Claro with $2,891,598.56 for generators, batteries and monitoring system; Liberty with $3,449,132.22 for batteries and generators; VPNet with $1,355,545.59 for solar systems and generators, and WorldNet with $1,124,561.17 for batteries, generators, upgrades and redundancy of emergency equipment.
The list of benefited companies is completed by Innovatel with $1,117,062.09 for generators; AuditorsPR with $259,420.68 for generators, solar systems and batteries; Neptune with $2,018,273.78 for solar systems and generators; Skynet Wireless with $212,035.40 for solar systems and generators, and DM Wireless with $554,174.74 for solar systems and batteries.
Questioned by El Nuevo Dia about whether the best use of this benefit should have been for these telecommunications companies, which have their private funds, instead of providing direct help to the public, the governor defended his initiative.
“This is being done through other programs. We are using CDBG-MIT (Community Development Mitigation Grant) funds to encourage low-income families to install battery panels in their homes,” she stressed.
“We are also encouraging small and medium-sized businesses, both with ARPA (American Rescue Plan) funds -those have already been consumed-, as well as with funds from the CDBG-DR program (Community Development Grant for Disaster Recovery) so that they install solar panels with batteries in their facilities, so this is being done through other mechanisms,” he said.
Völckers-Nin He explained that the auction to choose the companies took place on May 11.
“Those providers included details on the design and installation of projects that can provide uninterrupted power to telecommunication facilities, as well as their fuel storage and distribution systems with a minimum capacity of 10 days of operation,” Völckers-Nin said. .
The executive director of the Office of Management and Budget (OGP), Juan Carlos Blanco indicated that the allocations granted to each company will be supervised by his office.
“It is part of the responsibility of the broadband committee, within the OGP. There will be a compliance office, which will monitor and generate reports. (Companies) are going to have to account,” he stressed.