FCC proposes $954 million to restore Puerto Rico’s telecom networks
The FCC is ready to do more to help Hurricane Maria victims beyond a task force and short-term cash infusions. Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed spending a total of $954 million to both fix and expand telecom networks in both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The measure would offer an extra $64 million in near-term recovery, but would also include $631 million to repair and grow wired broadband as well as $259 million to improve LTE data.
As to how the agency would pay for all this? There would be $256 million in truly new funding, but the FCC would turn the advanced funding from 2017 into extra funding by declining to offset that financing against future universal service support payments. It would also repurpose universal service support that was already being directed toward the stricken areas.
If the proposal goes forward, it could be helpful in a country whose telecom networks weren’t on the cutting edge before Maria struck. With that said, it’s not hard to raise questions. Why are longer-term plans only coming up half a year after the hurricane? And wouldn’t it be better to offer funding on top of universal service support, rather than replace it? The long-term funding should be helpful — it’s just a question of whether or not it’s as helpful as it could be.