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FCC to Help Fund Network Rebuilds in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

FCC chair Ajit Pai has announced an almost $1 billion aid package to help rebuild communications to Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The money ($954 million) will be divided into a $750 million tranche for Puerto Rico and $204 million for the Virgin Islands. The money would go both to short-term fixes and long-term buildouts of broadband access.

The funds would include $256 million in additional support on top of repurposed Universal Service Fund subsidy money.

Pai visited the area after the storms and was clearly affected by what he saw, telling B&C following his two-day trip back in November 2017 more money would be needed to help the region.

The announcement came even as FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was on the ground in Puerto Rico, tweeting:

On the ground in #SanJuan today. Grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn.

— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) March 5, 2018

The FCC is already letting Hurricane-affected TV stations move more quickly to new post-incentive auction repack channels than would have ordinarily been the case.

Pai FCC Gets Bipartisan Praise for Puerto Rico Restoration

“The people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still recovering from last year’s devastating storms," Pai said. "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."

The chairman suggested time was of the essence given the approach of another storm season. "With the 2018 hurricane season less than three months away," he said, "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.”

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.