Over three million Americans call Puerto Rico home. That is more than the State of Wyoming, Vermont and the Dakotas combined. Much like any other part of the US, broadband connectivity has been a critical tool for education, healthcare, and government service delivery, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Francella Ochillo, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, and Katherine Trujillo, Deputy Director of Libraries Without Borders, and local leaders discussed local efforts to address reliable service, affordability, digital literacy, and access to devices with Alexandra Fernandez Navarro, Associate Member of the Puerto Rico Public Service Regulatory Board. 

Commissioner Fernandez Navarro explained why broadband is not only recognized as a necessity, “for the first time, broadband is being treated as an economic motor.” The April 15th discussion covered the importance of public-private partnership in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in addition to what local governments have done to improve network resilience since then. Broadband mapping and information sharing protocols, born of that rebuilding process, helped local officials develop Puerto Rico’s 2015 broadband plan. 

According to Commissioner Fernandez Navarro, community leaders turned out to be some of the most instrumental in supporting broadband deployment and digital literacy. She shared first-hand knowledge of neighbors helping neighbors gain Internet access, emphasizing that it’s not enough to focus on deploying infrastructure without thinking about the people who use it. When asked about the story that keeps her motivated, the Commissioner shared a story of a 10-year-old student from a mountain community who saw a computer for the first time. It is an ongoing source of motivation. 

Local officials working to increase broadband access and adoption will gain valuable insights from the strategies being used in Puerto Rico. Watch the 30-minute webinar here