Recovery of the communications networks from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands maintained its painfully slow pace, yesterday, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting Service.
Overall, 88.3 of cell sites were reported out of service, compared with 90.3 percent of cell sites that were out of service on Sept. 28. All counties in Puerto Rico, except Bayamon, Guaynabo, and San Juan, have greater than 75 percent of their cell sites out of service. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 68.9 percent of the cell sites were out of service and 100 percent of cell sites in St. John were still out of service.
In response to the disaster, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed that carriers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands should be able to use their Universal Service Fund allocations to rebuild networks.
“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,” Pai said. “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,” he added.
On Sept. 23, AT&T began sending flights with restoration equipment, including generators, personnel and humanitarian supplies into Puerto Rico.
“We’re coordinating with local and federal authorities to support recovery efforts. We’re also working to keep our customers connected and to restore services to areas where storm damage, power outages and flooding have interrupted service,” AT&T said in a blog post.
“Safety is critical during the rebuilding and restoration of these areas. And we are working to keep all our employees in Puerto Rico and in U.S. Virgin Islands safe as they rebuild their communities.”
Technical staff have been mobilized to review Sprint’s sites in Puerto Rico and to expedite the reconstruction process of the network.
“Our first shipment has already arrived in Puerto Rico with generators and parts required for restoration, and crews of engineers and technicians from the United States have already joined the local team on the Island,” the company said in a blog post. A second shipment was scheduled to arrive on Sept. 27.
Verizon Foundation Commits $1 Million to support Puerto Rico Recovery
Verizon has pledged $1 million to fund Hurricane Maria relief efforts through a partnership with the American Red Cross and World Vision.
“The people of Puerto Rico need our help,” said Verizon Chairman & CEO Lowell McAdam. “Verizon is committed to supporting communities struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, as we’ve done with Harvey and Irma. We will be working with local network operators, our nonprofit partners and, of course, our employees to assist the Puerto Rican people in rebuilding their lives and I encourage anyone with the means and opportunity to do so to come to their aid.”
To give to “United for Puerto Rico,” an initiative by the First lady of Puerto Rico, go to http://unidosporpuertorico.com/en/
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.