FCC Approves $950M for Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Commercial Networks
Two years ago, communications infrastructure on the islands was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai introduced a plan to provide up to $691.2 million for fixed voice over a 10-year term and broadband service in both areas, with $504.7 million earmarked for Puerto Rico and $186.5 million set aside for the USVI. The plan would also provide $258.8 million over three years for mobile voice and broadband in the two territories, with $254.4 million allocated for Puerto Rico and $4.4 million for the USVI.
The FCC previously provided about $130 million in additional, one-time Universal Service Fund (USF) support to assist with network restoration. With restoration work substantially complete, the FCC Sept. 26 approved the next stage of funding, which will provide mid- and long-term support to deploy fast, resilient, and reliable networks.
Fixed broadband support will be awarded through a competitive process, in which service providers will bid to serve every location in each covered area with up to gigabit speeds. Providers’ applications will be scored based on objective criteria in three categories: price per location served, network performance (speed and latency), and network resiliency and redundancy.
Support for mobile services will be awarded to providers that offered mobile services in the territories prior to the hurricanes to expand and harden Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks and deploy next-generation 5G networks.
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