US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) landed in Puerto Rico this week to survey the progress of communications recovery efforts on the island.
Pai met with the President of Puerto Rico’s telecommunication regulatory board to talk shop. Though the FCC already promised to release $77 million over the next seven months to fund the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s mobile infrastructure, Pai indicated in a Twitter post there is still “much to do.”
“The FCC is committed to supporting recovery efforts and doing everything we can to help restore communications networks as quickly as possible,” Pai said in a statement.
Pai’s visit comes after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September, knocking out electricity and 95 per cent of cell sites across the island. As of 5 November, around 49 per cent of cell sites remained out of service, with more than 80 per cent of sites in seven counties still down. The FCC reported around 68 per cent of Puerto Rico’s population is now covered by operator service.
The progress was noted by Spectrum Financial Partners’ CTO Stephen Wilkus on Twitter.
Progress in restoring mobile cell service to #PuertoRico $ #USVI, as 49 net sites are brought on-line today as @AjitPaiFCC visits. 51.5% on. pic.twitter.com/WbddVNt2tY
— Stephen Wilkus (@sawilkus) November 5, 2017
Wireless operators have been working frantically to restore service in the storm’s wake, with T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T documenting shipments of equipment, engineers and supplies to the island. Both T-Mobile and AT&T have also partnered with Google’s Project Loon as part of their effort to provide connectivity to residents.
On 6 November, Liberty Global announced an initiative with Kymeta and Intelsat to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity to citizens in some of the hardest hit areas using mobile units with satellite antennas. The vehicles are reportedly being deployed as part of a caravan equipped with food, water and medical supplies to 29 remote towns which have been determined to have the greatest need.