Pai reveals $954m plan to fix networks in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has proposed a $954 million plan to restore and expand communications networks in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.
Following the damage and destruction caused by the 2017 hurricane season, Pai proposes creating a $750 million Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund (Bringing Puerto Rico Together Fund) and a $204 million Connect USVI Fund. Each of the two funds would provide short-term assistance for restoring communications networks and longer-term support for expanding broadband access across the islands.
Speaking about the proposal, Pai said: “The people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still recovering from last year’s devastating storms. That means the FCC’s work is far from over. After my previous visit to Puerto Rico, I publicly committed to ‘thinking creatively and doing proactively to help restore networks on the island.’ The plan I’ve proposed today would deliver on that commitment and extend that vision even further.”
“The plan calls for the FCC to devote almost $1 billion in funding both to the short-term, efficient restoration of service and the long-term improvement and expansion of broadband throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, added Pai. “With the 2018 hurricane season less than three months away, we need to take bold and decisive action. I hope that my fellow commissioners will join me in supporting the creation of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund.”
Included in the plan is the following details:
- The release of approximately $64 million in additional funding to help with short-term restoration efforts.
- A proposal to allocate approximately $631 million in long-term funding for the restoration and expansion of fixed broadband connectivity in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
- Another proposal to allocate approximately $259 million in medium-term funding for the restoration and expansion of 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity across the two islands.
- The immediate conversion of the advanced funding the FCC provided to carriers in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands last year, into new funding by declining to offset that advanced funding against future universal service support payments.
Overall the plan will provide $256 million in new funds as well as repurposing universal service support that is currently being given to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Pai is scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands from 7-10 March, where he will lead a team to review recovery efforts and evaluate and prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
The FCC says that since last years’ hurricanes it has taken various actions to promote public safety and connectivity. As well as providing public information on network outage conditions and sending staff to monitor & aid recovery efforts, the commission pledged nearly $77 million in advance universal service funding, in addition to expediting approval of experimental licenses for Alphabet’s Project Loon to provide Internet access to residents and granting more than 200 waivers and requests for Special Temporary Authority to help re-establish communications in hurricane-affected areas.