The FCC approved $237.9 million in funding over three years to expand, improve, and harden mobile broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Specifically, the agency authorized $233.9 million to three carriers serving Puerto Rico and $4 million to one carrier serving the USVI.
The actions include approximately $59.5 million in funding specifically devoted to deploying 5G networks in Puerto Rico and the USVI; it’s the first universal service funding the Commission has awarded anywhere in the country that is targeted for 5G deployment.
“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. “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.”
The Commission awarded high-cost mobile support to eligible mobile carriers that offered services in the territories prior to the hurricanes, in order to expand and harden 4G LTE networks and deploy next-generation 5G networks. Carriers that elected to receive support were required to submit a detailed disaster preparation and response plan committing to measures and procedures for responding to future disasters.
Specifically, the Commission required applicants to submit plans describing in detail how they would: (1) strengthen infrastructure; (2) ensure network diversity; (3) ensure backup power; (4) monitor networks; and (5) prepare for emergencies.
After reviewing the plans, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved approximately $97.8 million for AT&T, $76.6 million for Puerto Rico Telephone Company, and $59.6 million for T-Mobile in Puerto Rico, and $4 million for AT&T in the USVI.
Through actions taken in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria as well as Stage 1 of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund, the Commission has already provided approximately $130 million in extra universal service funding to carriers providing fixed and mobile broadband service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additional high-cost support to the territories for fixed voice and broadband services will be awarded separately through a competitive process later this summer.
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