There are still more than 150,000 homes and businesses in Puerto Rico without power. That’s a not-at-all insignificant 11 percent of the customer base at 6 months from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two powerful category 5 storms that completely wiped the power and communications grids of that territory and the US Virgin Islands in the immediate aftermath of their departure.
These islanders have been told that it would take months, perhaps even a year to bring it all back online. One of the quicker recoveries, if only a cold comfort, has been in wireless with spurs from the FCC to bring experimental networking methods like Alphabet’s Project Loon into the fold. That said, 4.3 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico and 14 percent of sites in the Virgin Islands are still offline.
Now, commission chairman Ajit Pai wants to divert $204 million to the US Virgin Islands and $750 million to Puerto Rico for funds to assist networks in rebuilding their networks in time for the next hurricane season starting in May. Most of those monies, though, are going to expand broadband reach to poorer connectivity areas in the regions — in the case of the Virgin Islands, it will be done through LTE.
“With the 2018 hurricane season less than three months away, we need to take
bold and decisive action,” Pai said. “I hope that my fellow commissioners will join me in supporting the creation of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund.”
As with any other proposal, the commission will need to vote on it. $256 million in new funds not in the FCC’s allocation will need to be ratified by congress.