& cplSiteName &

Pai: Use USF Funds for Puerto Rican Recovery

Alan Breznick

Seeking to jump-start the restoration of communication service in storm-battered Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands after two weeks of chaos, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to advance up to $77 million in Universal Service Fund (USF) monies to service providers to cover emergency network repairs.

Fresh off his confirmation by a divided US Senate for a second term at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , Pai penned a blog for the FCC website Tuesday calling on his fellow commissioners to approve an order that would make the funds available immediately. Specifically, he wants to offer up to seven months of USF monies to carriers in one lump sum now so they can start network repairs and service restoration. (See Pai Prevails, Confirmed for 2nd Term at FCC.)

"In normal times, this fund provides federal subsidies to companies to make communications services (voice and Internet) more accessible and affordable in places where the cost of providing service is high," Pai wrote. "Typically, companies get those subsidies on a month-by-month basis. The devastation wrought by Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands requires us to think more creatively."

Pai argued that the move would be "a shot in the arm for network recovery and reconstruction." He said it would also "give companies the flexibility they need to restore service as quickly and efficiently as possible. "

The proposal -- perhaps not coincidentally made on the same day that President Trump visited Puerto Rico after heavy criticism of the federal government's sluggish response to Hurricane Maria -- came nearly two weeks after the storm ravaged both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, knocking out the electric grid on Puerto Rico and wreaking unprecedented damage to all the islands. As of Monday, nearly 90% of the cell phone sites in Puerto Rico and nearly 70% of the cell towers in the Virgin Islands remained out of service, according to the FCC. And little progress has been made over the past week.

In his blog yesterday, Pai said he hopes "my fellow commissioners will join me in helping to bring back connectivity to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as soon as possible." But, he said, if this proposal has not been approved by the FCC's regular October meeting three weeks from now, "it will top our agenda on October 24."

In its own statement, AT&T praised the FCC efforts at rebuilding communications infrastructure. The company said it will "closely assess the details of the chairman's proposal as we continue with the recovery and restoration of our network and facilities."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/18/2017 | 8:48:02 AM
Shifting Funds And Fortunes?
It would seem that Pai's proposal would be a stop gap means to get communications services up and running bit faster in hard hit Puerto Rico. But, it still leaves the question of where to make up the money taken from the USF program, at some later date to benefit the mostly poor and rural areas still needing the subsidies to install the necessary infrastructures. Maybe those funds should be immediately put to use for it's intended use?
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 6, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
T-Mobile to Play the Customer Care Card With Layer3 TV
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, 8/15/2018
Australia Could Open 5G Door to Huawei
Robert Clark, 8/16/2018
Video Navigation Gets an AI Assist
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, 8/16/2018
Eurobites: Deutsche Telekom Pulls Out of Iran
Iain Morris, International Editor, 8/17/2018
Animals with Phones
When Your Cat Hijacks Your Tech Click Here
Latest Comment
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed