FCC approves $750 million to improve infrastructure in Puerto Rico
To boost broadband access on both Caribbean territories, USVI to receive $200 million as well
SAN JUAN — The Federal Communications Commission approved Thursday $950 million in funding to “improve, expand, and harden” communications networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
After communications infrastructure on the islands was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the FCC created the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and the Connect USVI Fund.To date, the FCC has provided about $130 million in additional, one-time Universal Service Fund support to assist with network restoration.
“With restoration work substantially complete, the FCC today voted to approve the next stage of funding, which will provide mid- and long-term support to deploy fast, resilient, and reliable networks that will stand the test of time,” an FCC release reads.
To accomplish these goals in Puerto Rico, the FCC said it voted to allocate more than $500 million over 10 years in fixed broadband support and more than $250 million over three years in mobile broadband support. In the USVI, the FCC allocated more than $180 million over 10 years in support for fixed networks, and $4 million over three years for mobile networks.
“I thank Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, as well as its commissioners, for the commitment to the recovery of telecommunications infrastructure in Puerto Rico, after the approval of a multimillion-dollar allocation that strengthens the telecommunications sector and strengthens access to new-generation technology, as well as internet connectivity to all Puerto Ricans,” Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez said in a statement.
The agency explained that fixed broadband support will be awarded through a competitive process, “in which service providers will bid to serve every location in each covered area with up to gigabit speeds.”
Providers’ applications will be scored based on “objective criteria in three categories: price per location served, network performance (speed and latency), and network resiliency and redundancy,” the FCC said, adding that “support for mobile services will be awarded to providers that were offering mobile services in the Territories prior to the hurricanes in order to expand and harden 4G LTE networks and deploy next-generation 5G networks.”
The president of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Bureau, Sandra Torres López, stressed the importance of expanding access to digital technology, as well as having a robust telecom infrastructure.
“This approval represents the hard work and compliance of the FCC with the recovery on the island after the devastation of hurricanes Irma and María. The Uniendo Puerto Rico Fund gives us the tools to not only be better prepared for emergency weather events, but also to give all Puerto Ricans the opportunity for next-generation digital access,” Torres López said.