FCC's Pai, Clyburn to Assess Irma Damages First-Hand

The bipartisan duo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will travel together to Florida Sept. 18 to assess the damage from Hurricane Irma.

The FCC tracked the status of communications during the storm and provided assistance to those who needed special temporary authorities (STAs) to remain on the air or get back on the air in a manner not consistent with terms of their licenses.

While in Florida, the pair will get updates on efforts to restore communications to affected areas.

Related: FCC Extends Disaster Reporting System, Pai Cites Value of Wireless in Crisis

According to the most recent Hurricane Irma FCC status report—gleaned from the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) voluntary reporting system for counties in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, over half the cell sites in the Virgin Islands (53.8%) remain out of service, compared to 55.1% the day before; a quarter of the cell sites (24.6%) in Florida were still down, an improvement from 27.4% on Monday (the latest figures are from 11 a.m., Sept. 12).

For Puerto Rico, the total was 14.5% of sites, down from 19.4% in the previous report; Georgia 10.5%; and Alabama less than 1%.

According to the FCC, 51 radio stations were out of service across the affected areas, up significantly from 25% as of 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 11. Nine TV stations were off the air, one more than the day before.

No TV stations were off air in Alabama or Georgia, but Florida had three—WVFW, WGCU and WSBS—up from two the day before. Puerto Rico had four stations off the air—WOST, WMEI, WQQZ and WWKQ—the same as the day before, and the U.S. Virgin Islands had two—WTJX and SO5AWD, also holding steady from Monday.

“Hurricane Irma has had a serious impact on communications networks in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Chairman Pai of the planned visit. “The FCC is committed to supporting recovery efforts, and I am grateful for the work that first responders, emergency personnel, and state and local partners are doing to restore service in affected areas…”

“I am grateful that Chairman Pai extended the offer for me to join him in Florida on Monday to inspect the damage caused by Hurricane Irma," added Clyburn. "Together we will gain insight into our collective efforts to restore vital communications services."

(Photo via The National Guard’s flickr and taken by David Sterphone. Image taken on Sept. 12, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit the 16x9 aspect ratio.)

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.