The FCC has voted unanimously to allow communications companies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to receive subsidies from the Universal Service Fund's high-cost tranche to apply toward restoring service in those areas and repairing infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Maria.
The subsidies are for delivering service to areas where it is uneconomical to do so, but given the hit Maria delivered on the islands, the FCC is "clarifying" that the money can be used to repair that damage, including filing for a single advance payment of up to seven months worth of subsidies.
That means up to $76.9 million will be available for assistance.
FCC chair Ajit Pai had slated a vote for the item at the Oct. 24 meeting, but the commission was expected not to wait for that date given the pressing need, which turned out to be the case.
The order concluded that "the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria has presumptively left all of Puerto Rico unserved by an unsubsidized competitor," which would then make all of Puerto Rico's providers eligible for the money.
It also "instructs carriers to coordinate restoration efforts with the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to ensure that coverage is available to the most people."
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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.