Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a spending budget of $954 million that will help fix and expand telecom networks in both Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. The funds would offer an extra $64 million in near-term recovery, but also include $631 million to repair and grow wired broadband networks and $259 million to improve LTE data coverage in the respective areas. Sounds like the FCC is serious about doing more for Hurricane Maria victims than just putting together a task force and providing short-term cash infusions.
So, where exactly will these funds come from? $256 million would be new funding, but the FCC would use the advanced funding from 2017 into extra funding by declining to offset the financing against future universal service support payments. In addition, the federal body would repurpose universal service support that was already being provided to the affected areas.
If this proposal does go forward, it would be a massive help to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands because their telecom networks weren’t on the cutting edge of technology even before Hurricane Maria struck.
While the funding is nice and all, the question to ask why are these long-term plans just coming up half a year after the hurricane impacted the areas? Would it better to offer these funds on top of the universal service support? There’s a lot of questions, but at least it’s good to see FCC providing long-term assistance to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.