The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today authorized a three-year funding plan to spend $237.9 million in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to expand, improve and harden mobile wireless broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those areas were particularly hard hit by hurricanes two years ago and, as a result, had significant communications outages.
The FCC authorized a combined $233.9 million to three carriers serving Puerto Rico — AT&T, Puerto Rico Telephone Company and T-Mobile — and $4 million to AT&T for the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Stage 2 funding of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund.
Included in today’s authorization is $59.5 million devoted to deploying 5G networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first universal service funding the Commission has awarded anywhere in the country targeted for 5G deployment.
FCC USVI and FCC Puerto Rico Wireless Funding
In its awarding of the funds, the FCC offered financial support to carriers that offered services in the territories prior to the hurricanes. Funding recipients were required to submit a detailed disaster preparation and response plan committing to measures and procedures for responding to future disasters. The plans had to include how the applicant would: strengthen infrastructure; ensure network diversity; ensure backup power; monitor networks and prepare for emergencies.
“Over two years ago, communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a prepared statement about the FCC USVI and FCC Puerto Rico wireless funding.
“The Commission acted quickly to direct Universal Service Fund support to help restore communications networks damaged by the hurricanes. And through today’s action, we are taking a major step toward expanding, improving, and hardening mobile broadband networks on the islands. I’m especially pleased that we are providing the first universal service funding ever specifically targeted for the deployment of 5G networks so that consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will benefit from the next generation of wireless connectivity.”
The FCC also has allocated $691 million for hardened fixed broadband services in Puerto Rico and the USVI. In February, the commission said it will use a reverse auction to award that funding, as Telecompetitor reported.