FCC extends Universal Service support for Puerto Rico telco’s
The Federal Communications Commission adopted an order that continues efforts to bolster mobile and fixed voice and broadband services throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by ensuring universal service support will go to “harden and strengthen networks” as part of the Bringing Puerto Rico Together Fund and the Connect USVI Fund.
“These programs have helped make tremendous progress toward restoring networks battered by Hurricanes María and Irma in 2017,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said. “The job is not done, as we learned from the devastation of recent hurricanes like Hurricane Fiona in 2022.”
“Today’s action will support ongoing work to restore, harden, and expand critical communications infrastructure to keep communities connected and protected against future extreme weather events,” she said.
Current recipients of mobile support can receive a portion of their current funding for up to 24 months. The support must be used to strengthen 4G LTE or 5G-NR (New Radio) networks, the agency stated.
In addition, while new high-cost supported networks are being deployed, the commission extends, until Dec. 31, 2025, the phasedown of fixed support in areas where incumbents did not win competitive Stage 2 fixed funding.
Telecom providers may only use the support for redundancy and resiliency measures to help ensure critical telecom networks remain operational during times of disasters and must submit a spending plan on how the funding will be used.
Service providers in Puerto Rico agreed the FCC’s decision is “favorable.”
Carla Framil Ferrán, vice president of Liberty Communications’ legal division, said: “The purpose of this is to ensure that current recipients can continue their existing efforts to strengthen their networks until a long-term funding mechanism is established.”
“The FCC will provide transitional support recipients with 50% of their current monthly support level for both 4G LTE and 5G-NR in the first year of transitional support; and 25% of their current monthly support level for both 4G LTE and 5G-NR in the second year of transitional support,” she explained.
“The agency’s action is a positive one because this money will help carriers to improve the mobile networks’ resiliency and redundancy. Transitional support must be used to improve redundancy and resiliency of facilities for 4G LTE or better technologies, including the maintenance of backup power systems for such networks,” the Liberty VP said.
Meanwhile, Claro de Puerto Rico President Enrique Ortiz de Montellano, said the carrier “welcomes the FCC’s decision to extend the allocation of funds to Claro as incumbent and to the other mobile service providers.”
“Claro submitted comments in the consideration process before the FCC expressing its support for the initiative because it clearly understands the need to continue,” he said.
“With this decision, the FCC recognizes the need to continue supporting the work to strengthen and make the provider networks in Puerto Rico more resilient. With the extension of these transitional funds, the objective of continuing the telecommunications services that the people of Puerto Rico receive in emergency events. As Chairwoman Rosenworcel expressed well, there is still work to be done and Claro shares her focus on achieving it,” Ortiz de Montellano said.
T-Mobile Puerto Rico’s general manager, Jorge Martel, told News is my Business that the company is appreciative of the FCC’s “commitment to robust and resilient mobile networks in Puerto Rico” and noted its strong support for the decision to “extend funding until a long-term mechanism is in place,” ultimately benefiting consumers.
“While building the fastest and largest 5G network in Puerto Rico, T-Mobile has invested in significantly hardening its network and increased the availability and capacity of the system to ensure more resiliency and improve the overall customer experience, thanks in part to Stage 2 support,” he said.
“T-Mobile commends the FCC’s commitment to building robust and resilient mobile networks in Puerto Rico and strongly support the FCC decision to extend funding until a long-term mechanism is in place. The FCC’s continued support for the wireless industry will help deploy advanced mobile services and ensure that providers maintain and strengthen existing facilities — all for the benefit of the consumer,” Martel said.
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