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AT&T to FCC: Communications situation in Puerto Rico, USVI post-hurricanes remains serious

By on April 24, 2018

SAN JUAN – AT&T has sent a letter  to the Federal Communications Commission in which it expresses concern that the “communications network situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands post-Irma and Maria hurricanes remains serious.”

Referring to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal that $954 million in funds be made available to rebuild wireless communications on the islands, the telecom giant wrote that “electric generators have become a critical network element due to the unreliability of the electric grid, particularly in Puerto Rico,” and that because these “have a short life-span due to out-of-spec intensive use,” it “alone has immediate need for over 200” new ones.

“Immediate additional USF [Universal Service Fund] support would accelerate ongoing recovery efforts and address the extraordinary costs resulting from the hurricane damage,” AT&T wrote.

Chairman Pai’s plan needs FCC approval and would be largely funded by the Universal Service Fund, which provides federal subsidies to companies to make communications services more accessible and affordable in places where the cost is high.

FCC chairman proposes $954 million plan for Puerto Rico, USVI

The wireless provider argues for the need for funds with post-hurricane usage numbers. “Average mobile use (voice & data) in March 2018 vs August 2017 up 63% in Puerto Rico & 69% in Virgin Islands,” a bullet point reads.

AT&T adds that it must increase its mobile network capacity “above & beyond” its projected pre-hurricane plans in order to support extraordinary customer demand, which has surged in part due to the fact that many “households still lack reliable home broadband service and are using their mobile service for Internet access.”

Among the infrastructure changes it says investment is needed for are “above & beyond standard network architecture designs to harden” these on the islands ahead of the hurricane season. These include buried infrastructure, diversifying “key fiber routes to maximize network resiliency,” expanding “emergency backup microwave wireless backhaul capabilities” and reinforcing utility poles and cell towers.

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