Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands could receive an extra $21 million for long-term improvements to 4G LTE service as part of a hurricane recovery package approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The $954 million package, which was first introduced in March, includes the immediate release of $64 million in short-term funding for restoration efforts in 2018. But the agency said it is also seeking comment on medium- and long-term funding proposals to send an additional $890 million to the islands over the next decade, including $259 million for 4G LTE expansion.
The latter figure represents an increase of $21 million over current funding levels for Puerto Rico and the USVI, the commission noted.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement the long-term considerations are critical to help “enhance connectivity and help future-proof the territories’ networks” ahead of future storms.
Hurricanes ravaged both US territories in 2017, with 95 per cent of base stations on Puerto Rico knocked offline in the wake of Hurricane Maria. To help with recovery and restore connectivity, the commission already released $77 million in advanced universal service funding and approved an experimental licence for Google’s Project Loon.
But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the commission also made missteps, calling its decision not to hold public hearings or issue a report in the wake of the disaster that could be used to inform future rulemaking “an ugly mistake”.