Responding to the destruction of communications networks wreaked by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federal Communications Commission today took steps to immediately provide up to $76.9 million to help restore service.
The FCC unanimously voted to immediately provide carriers with up to seven-months’ worth of support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which helps lower the cost of deploying service in areas that are costly to serve. Any funds advanced under today’s action can be used to repair telecommunications infrastructure and restore service to customers across the islands.
According to the order, Puerto Rico Telephone — which does business as Claro — could get an advance of more than $37 million; AT&T could receive more than $16 million; T-Mobile could get more than $8.2 million; and Open Mobile, more than $5.5 million. Two carriers in the USVI could get an advance of more than $9.6 million.
“Restoring and repairing communications networks is critical to bringing much needed immediate relief to these heavily damaged areas, and to beginning the long road to restoring normalcy. We must do our part to assist in that effort,” the FCC said in its order approving the funding.
The vote took place way ahead of the date of the next commissioner’s meeting on Oct. 24, when the order submitted by FCC Chair Ajit Pai was to go to a vote, as this media outlet reported.
Maria’s direct hit of Puerto Rico and the USVI on Sept. 20 left the vast majority of cell sites out of service, and nearly all consumers without either cable or wireline services.
As of Wednesday, approximately 88 percent of cell sites were out of service in Puerto Rico and 67 percent in the USVI.
The FCC’s actions are intended to enable carriers to restore essential communications services as quickly as possible. FCC staff will help coordinate network repair activities to ensure that the greatest coverage is available to the most people, the agency confirmed.