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P.R. Telecom Board President Asks FCC for Funding Support

By on December 18, 2017

The president of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board (JRT by its Spanish initials), Sandra Torres López, last Friday informed that she asked the president of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, to include funds for the costly redevelopment of the island’s telecommunications infrastructure after an evaluation of the region was completed of damages from Hurricane Maria.

“After a careful assessment of Hurricane Maria’s impact on telecommunications, we must conclude that it is necessary for Puerto Rico to have more resilient and robust telecommunications service, driven by various technologies, such as wiring (fiber and copper), wireless, satellite, microwave, temporary technology, such as Cells on Wheels (COW), as well as underground and aerial infrastructure,” Torres López said in her letter to the FCC president.

Puerto Rico TRB President Sandra Torres. (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

In her communication, the JRT president explained that her request asked for Puerto Rico to be included in the FCC’s support mechanism for the high-cost fund, just as has been done for the jurisdictions of Alaska and native lands.

“Puerto Rico deserves a new high-cost fund support mechanism that provides significant incentives for infrastructure development, which is so costly in Puerto Rico. The federal support, and includes a generous advance from the Universal Service Fund, which was made available in advance to telecommunications companies, may not be enough support to allow isolated communities to be reconnected, or to receive access to broadband infrastructure, which is vital for the island’s development in the coming decades,” Torres assured.

Last October, the FCC president issued an order for a $76 million advance from the Universal Service Fund to companies that offer telephone service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to JRT estimates, the companies have faced total damages of $1.2 billion.

In her letter, Torres López suggested to the FCC president that dialogue could be initiated “that allows us to find solutions for those rural and isolated communities that were affected by two hurricanes in a single month.”

As of Dec. 15, cellular connectivity on the island has been restored by 88 percent, with 2,197 active antennas, out of a total of 2,671.

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