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FCC OK’s $237.9M to upgrade mobile broadband networks in Puerto Rico, USVI

The Federal Communications Commission today approved $237.9 million in funding over three years to “expand, improve, and harden” mobile broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Specifically, in Stage 2 of the “Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund” and “Connect USVI Fund,” the FCC authorized $233.9 million to three carriers serving Puerto Rico and $4 million to one carrier serving the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved approximately $97.8 million for AT&T, $76.6 million for Puerto Rico Telephone Company (which does business as Claro Puerto Rico), and $59.6 million for T-Mobile in Puerto Rico, and $4 million for AT&T in the USVI. 

The global amount includes approximately $59.5 million in funding specifically earmarked to deploying 5G networks in Puerto Rico and the USVI, the first universal service funding the Commission has awarded anywhere in the country that is targeted for 5G deployment, the FCC confirmed.

“Over two years ago, communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “The Commission acted quickly to direct Universal Service Fund support to help restore communications networks damaged by the hurricanes.”

“And through today’s action, we are taking a major step toward expanding, improving, and hardening mobile broadband networks on the islands,” he said. “I’m especially pleased that we are providing the first universal service funding ever specifically targeted for the deployment of 5G networks so that consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will benefit from the next generation of wireless connectivity.”

The Commission awarded high-cost mobile support to eligible mobile carriers that offered services in the territories prior to the hurricanes in order to expand and harden 4G LTE networks and deploy next-generation 5G networks. 

Carriers that submitted proposals to receive support were required to present a detailed disaster preparation and response plan committing to measures and procedures for responding to future disasters. 

Specifically, the FCC required applicants for the funding to submit plans describing in detail how they would: (1) strengthen infrastructure; (2) ensure network diversity; (3) ensure backup power; (4) monitor networks; and (5) prepare for emergencies. 

Through actions taken in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María as well as Stage 1 of the “Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund” and “Connect USVI Fund,” the FCC has already provided approximately $130 million in extra universal service funding to carriers providing fixed and mobile broadband service in Puerto Rico and the USVI. 

“Additional high-cost support to the territories for fixed voice and broadband services will be awarded separately through a competitive process later this summer,” the FCC said in a release.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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