FCC Chairman proposes almost $1 billion for fixing connectivity in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
Ajit Pai, who currently sits as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has proposed to spend a total of $954 million in order to bring back connectivity as well as reinforce existing telecommunications infrastructure and capabilities in both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
While it is true that the FCC has already assembled a task force and facilitated a few cash infusion efforts (albeit on a short term basis only) in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, the nearly $1 billion proposal from Pai is likely its most ambitious yet. $64 million of the $954 million will be funneled to near term recovery initiatives, while another $631 million will be spent not only on repairing wired broadband services, but also on introducing new or additional solutions. As for LTE connectivity, another $259 million will be budgeted in order to foster innovation and improvements in this area.
But wait -- where exactly will the FCC get close to a billion dollars? About $256 million of that total amount will be sourced from fresh new funding, and then the agency is looking to take the advanced funding from 2017 and transform that into additional funding by declining to offset that financing against universal service support payments in the near future. On top of that, the federal organization is also planning to recycle universal service support that was already being funneled to help provide aid in places devastated by last year’s hurricanes.
As mentioned earlier, Chairman Pai’s proposal is pretty extensive, but importantly, it would give a major boost to a country like Puerto Rico. When it comes to telecommunications, the Caribbean nation’s is not as the same level as the United States’, and then in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, its network capabilities have suffered an even worse blow.
Most mobile and broadband communications networks in the United States island territories were severely compromised after a couple of hurricanes hit the region about half a year ago. And despite the fact that it has been around six months, 4.3 percent of cellular sites in Puerto Rico are still down, while 14 percent of sites in the US Virgin Islands are yet to be up and running again. Critically, this year’s hurricane season is set to begin in less than three months, and Pai did not hesitate to say that a bold and decisive course of action needs to be done right now before it is too late.