FCC establishes Puerto Rico, USVI telecom funds, making $954 million available
SAN JUAN – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published the “final action” document establishing the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and the Connect USVI Fund to “rebuild, improve and expand voice and broadband networks” in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following the devastating 2017 hurricane season.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria’s damage to Puerto Rico’s communications network is estimated at about $1.5 billion. Maria, the FCC says, “decimat[ed] the communications and power grid” of St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And the “[t]wo other main islands, St. John and St. Thomas, [had been] pummeled by Hurricane Irma just 14 days earlier.”
Through the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund, the FCC will make available up to $750 million to carriers in Puerto Rico, including “an immediate infusion of $51.2 million for restoration efforts in 2018.” Of the remainder, the agency anticipates that about $444.5 million will be made available over a 10-year term for fixed voice and broadband (“an $84 million increase over current funding levels”) and that about $254 million would be made available over a three-year term for 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile voice and broadband, “a $16.8 million increase.”
Through the Connect USVI Fund, the FCC will make available up to $204 million of funding to carriers in the USVI, including an “immediate infusion of $13 million for restoration efforts in 2018.”
As a result of these funds, as well as the “Commission’s decision not to offset more than $65 million in advance payments it made to carriers last year, it will make available up to $256 million in additional high-cost support for rebuilding, improving, and expanding broadband-capable networks in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
In March, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai met in Puerto Rico with different sectors of the telecom industry to discuss the plan for the reconstruction of the telecommunications infrastructure.
During his visit, Pai announced his work plan that included the $954 million investment proposal for the islands. In October, the FCC made available $76.9 million to reestablish communications networks in Puerto Rico.
The fund will support competitive proposals from suppliers, for projects of up to 10 years.