Plan set to provide $954 million for communication networks

WASHINGTON—The FCC has revealed a plan that will provide nearly $1 billion for the restoration and expansion of communication networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following the damages of the 2017 hurricane season.

Chairman Ajit Pai revealed the plan on Tuesday, March 6, for which he proposed to create a $750 million Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund (Bringing Puerto Rico Together Fund) and a $204 million Connect USVI Fund, totaling $954 million in assistance. Each fund would provide additional short term assistance for the recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria and Irma, as well as longer-term support for expanding broadband access throughout the islands.

The details of the plan include an immediate infusion of $64 million in additional funding for short-term restoration efforts; a proposal to allocate $631 million in long-term funding for the restoration and expansion of fixed broadband connectivity in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; a proposal to allocate $259 million in medium-term funding for the restoration and expansion of 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity; and the immediate conversion of the advanced funding the FCC provided last year to carriers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands into new funding by declining to offset that advanced funding against future universal service support payments.

[Pai to Visit Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands in March]

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

Pai will be in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from March 7-10 to further evaluate the recovery efforts.