FCC approves $77m support package for hurricane-hit islands

FCC approves $77m support package for hurricane-hit islands

The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved a $76.9 million package to restore communications services in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The islands have been hit hard by Hurricane Maria, a near category 5 hurricane that lashed Puerto Rico with wind and rain for more than 30 hours, leading to power cuts and loss of communications on the islands.

The FCC said it had voted unanimously to provide up to seven months’ worth of support from its Universal Service fund, in an attempt to restore communications. Approximately 88% of cell sites in Puerto Rico are still out of service, while 67% of sites are still down in the US Virgin Islands, two weeks after the hurricane struck.

FCC said the package aims to restore “essential communications services as quickly as possible”, with FCC staff helping to coordinate network repair services across the islands.

Chairman Ajit Pai, who was recently approved for another five year stint on the FCC board, said: “Ever since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, we at the Commission have been doing what we can to help restore communications across the islands. That ethos is reflected in today’s action. 

“Going forward, service providers will have greater flexibility in how they use universal service funding to restore and rebuild their networks. And since we’ve adopted this item so expeditiously, carriers will be able to elect to have accelerated payments begin flowing this month. This should be a boost for both wireless and wireline providers who are trying to restore connectivity.”

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