While the FCC was marked by partisan politics earlier this week, when the Senate confirmed Republican Chairman Ajit Pai for another 5-year term, today the regulatory body acted in a bipartisan fashion, voting unanimously to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With communication infrastructure a crucial element in the recovery from Hurricane Maria, the FCC voted unanimously to provide up to $76.9 million in relief funds.
The money will go toward restoring service across the island territories. The initiative will immediately provide carriers with up to seven months of support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which helps lower the cost of deploying service in areas that are costly to serve. Any of the funds can be used to repair telecom infrastructure and restore service to customers.
Maria landed with full force on Sept. 20, wiping out service at most cell sites and leaving nearly all consumers without either cable or wireline services. Just as the overall recovery effort has been bogged down by logistics, as of yesterday about 88% of cell sites remained out of service in Puerto Rico and 67% in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the commission.
The FCC said its staff will help coordinate network repair activities to ensure that the greatest coverage is available to the most people.