In response to the destruction of communications networks wreaked by Hurricane Maria, the FCC moved yesterday to provide up to $76.9 million to help restore service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Going forward, service providers will have greater flexibility in how they use universal service funding to restore and rebuild their networks,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This should be a boost for both wireless and wireline providers who are trying to restore connectivity.”
The FCC unanimously voted to immediately provide carriers with up to seven-months’ worth of support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which helps lower the cost of deploying service in areas that are costly to serve. Any funds advanced under today’s action can be used to repair telecommunications infrastructure and restore service to customers across the islands.
“The destruction is truly unimaginable, but as regulators we have a responsibility in times of emergency to act quickly to restore vital communications services,” said FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn. “Despite the heartbreak and loss, I am grateful for the fearless individuals who have risked their lives to help those in need.”
Maria’s direct hit of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 20 left the vast majority of cell sites out of service, and nearly all consumers without either cable or wireline services. Even as of yesterday, approximately 88 percent of cell sites were out of service in Puerto Rico and 67 percent in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The FCC’s actions are intended to enable carriers to restore essential communications services as quickly as possible. FCC staff will help coordinate network repair activities to ensure that the greatest coverage is available to the most people.