FCC proposes $954M to restore and expand Puerto Rico, Virgin Island networks damaged by hurricanes

View of San Juan in Puerto Rico
The funds will provide short-term assistance for post-hurricane rebuilding and long-term support to expand broadband access. (Image: Getty Images)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to direct $954 million toward restoring and expanding communications networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that were damaged and destroyed during the 2017 hurricane season.

He has crafted a proposal to create a $750 million Uniendo a Puerto Rico (Bringing Puerto Rico Together) Fund and a $204 million Connect USVI Fund.

RELATED: FCC to allocate $76.9M to aid Puerto Rico's communications recovery efforts

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The FCC said each of these funds will provide short-term assistance for restoring communications networks in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and longer-term support for expanding broadband access throughout the islands.

Ajit Pai
Ajit Pai

“After my previous visit to Puerto Rico, I publicly committed to ‘thinking creatively and doing proactively to help restore networks on the island,’” said Chairman Pai in a statement. “The plan I’ve proposed today would deliver on that commitment and extend that vision even further. The plan calls for the FCC to devote almost $1 billion in funding both to the short-term, efficient restoration of service and the long-term improvement and expansion of broadband throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Pai outlined several goals with his proposal:

Short-term restoration: The FCC proposed to offer the two regions an immediate infusion of about $64 million in additional funding for short-term restoration efforts.

Restoring wireline connectivity: The regulator wants to dedicate $631 million in long-term funding for the restoration and expansion of fixed broadband connectivity in Puerto Rico and the USVI.

Restoring wireless connectivity: Allocate about $259 million in medium-term funding for the restoration and expansion of 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity in Puerto Rico and the USVI.

Additionally, the plan calls to convert of the advanced funding the FCC provided last year to carriers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands into new funding by declining to offset that advanced funding against future universal service support payments. The plan would be funded by providing approximately $256 million in new funds as well as repurposing universal service support currently directed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In October, the FCC made a pledge to provide up to $76.9 million in Universal Service Fund (USF) money to restore services.  

The FCC unanimously voted to immediately provide carriers with up to seven months’ worth of support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which helps lower the cost of deploying service in areas that are costly to serve.