FCC approves $64m to fund hurricane-hit Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

FCC approves $64m to fund hurricane-hit Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

The US Federal Communications Commission has agreed to provide additional funding to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in an effort to restore communications services lost during devastation caused by 2017’s hurricane season.

The regulator is also seeking comment on medium and long-term funding proposals worth up to $900 million which will used to improve and expand broadband access on the islands, which were hit hard by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma.

The FCC said it will immediately infuse around $64 million in additional funding for short-term restoration efforts. It also opted not to offset $65.8 million in emergency funding provided last year with reductions in future universal support payments – a measure that was originally included in its support plans.

"The continuing difficulties in bringing service and power back to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have impeded and delayed restoration efforts so that conditions on the islands have not improved sufficiently to justify reducing future support payments,” the FCC explained.

It is seeking public comment on the proposal for addition funding, which would see over the next decade $444.5 million directly to Puerto Rico and $186.5 million for the US Virgin Islands, towards expansion of fixed broadband. There would also potentially be additional funding of $259 million direct towards LTE rollouts in the “medium-term”.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who has visited Puerto Rico twice since the hurricane hit last year, said: “During my visits to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, I saw that it was critical for the FCC to not only address today’s urgent needs, but to look ahead to support the broadband networks the islands need to thrive in the 21st Century.”

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