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FCC: Still Much Communications Work To Do In Haiti

At the outset of its public meeting Thursday (Feb. 18), the FCC outlined its ongoing efforts to help earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said it would be essential to continue to help restore the country's communications system, in some cases from scratch, to a country where a third of the population (3 million) has been affected and over 230,000 people have died.

The chairman said mobile networks are now almost 100% operational, but only a third of TV stations are up and running, and wireline communications are still down in the country's capital.

Mendel De La Torre, chief of the international bureau, said U.S. industries have been particularly helpful in their effort.

She said that immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake, only one communications network was operational, and it went dark within hours from lack of fuel.

FCC activities included staffers involved in rescue and recovery, coordinating with international organizations and identify needs and resources to meet them, to be a "matchmaker" as it were, most recently with the broadcast community there.

Jamie Barnett, chief of the public safety bureau, said one of the key FCC roles was spectrum monitoring and interference resolution. He said it would be "a long process" to fully restore communications.

De La Torre said many communications systems are back up, but some are destroyed and most still have "challenges like dead or injured or homeless personnel and damaged facilities."

On the broadcasting side, she said that sector had suffered the most because most were mom-and-pop operations. She said that before the quake, there were 50 radio stations and 18 TV stations, and that six TV's are back up and running and about 30 radio stations.

She said those stations were providing a "very large" public service, relaying messages about lost loved ones, for example.