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FCC Chairman Pai Proposes Using USF Funds for Puerto Rico Networks PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 12:31


Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai suggested a proposed order that would enable carriers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to use their Universal Service Fund allocations to more quickly rebuild networks.

“Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage to communications networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Yesterday, as part of the FCC’s ongoing work to assist with restoration efforts, I shared with my colleagues an order that would quickly make available up to $76.9 million of funding to repair wireline and wireless communication networks and restore communications services in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Specifically, I am proposing to allow carriers to use money provided through the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program to repair and restore communications networks throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I am also proposing that we give carriers operating in these territories the option of receiving USF funding in advance. Instead of receiving a standard monthly payment, carriers could elect this month to receive seven months’ worth of funding immediately in order to expedite repair and restoration efforts. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved up to $77 million to fund repairs of communication networks and restore services in storm-lashed Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As of Tuesday, almost two weeks after Hurricane Maria walloped Puerto Rico, knocking out its electric grid - nearly 90 percent of cell phone sites on the island remained out of service. Almost 70 percent of cell towers remained out in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with little progress made over the last week.

The fund provides federal subsidies to companies to make communications services more accessible and affordable in places where the cost is high.

The five-member FCC unanimously approved “up to seven months of their normal federal support in advance - right now, in a lump sum - to help them repair their networks and restore service to consumers,” Pai said.

In a statement network provider AT&T Inc (T.N) praised the FCC efforts at rebuilding communications infrastructure.

The company will “closely assess the details of the chairman’s proposal as we continue with the recovery and restoration of our network and facilities,” it said.

Wireless companies have been setting up temporary cell sites and bringing in equipment but still face hurdles with widespread power outages.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on this Order. Given the urgent situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I am asking Commissioners to approve it as soon as possible. If this proposal has not been adopted by the FCC’s October 24 meeting, we will vote on it then.”