FCC could extend support for Puerto Rico’s wireless network recovery
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency is considering extending support through its Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and the Connect USVI Fund beyond its end date of June 2023.
The funds were established after Hurricane María destroyed large parts of the communications infrastructure of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to “restore, harden, and expand communications networks on the islands,” in two stages.
Stage 1 of the PR/USVI Fund, established in 2018, provided approximately $51.2 million in new support to carriers in Puerto Rico and $13 million in new support to carriers in the USVI to help restore voice and broadband service, according to the Universal Service Administrative Co., which oversees the financial awards.
For Stage 2, the FCC in 2019 allocated $950 million to rebuild, expand and harden fixed and mobile voice and broadband networks across Puerto Rico and the USVI to ensure that communications systems on the islands are capable of withstanding future storms.
Stage 2 included a budget of $504.7 million to support investment in fixed networks over 10 years and $254.4 million to support investment in mobile networks over three years in Puerto Rico, and a budget of $186.5 million to support investment in fixed networks over 10 years and $4.4 million to support investment in mobile networks over three years in the USVI.
“The Commission will consider a plan to both extend this support and create new conditions to make sure the islands’ networks can withstand storm damage and have redundant capabilities,” said Rosenworcel, during the FCC’s October 2022 Open Meeting
Over the past few weeks, FCC staff have been working closely with local, state, and federal partners to support the speedy restoration of communications services that were knocked out by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.
“Some of the communities hit by Hurricane Fiona were the same ones I visited in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María ravaged the island’s communications infrastructure in 2017,” she said.
The October meeting was headlined by a proposal to support broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the USVI that are resilient enough to withstand the next big storm and others that follow, she said.