FCC Chairman Ajit Pai traveled to a mountaintop tower in eastern Puerto Rico this week to get a first-hand view of recovery efforts and damage caused by Hurricane Maria. He met with government officials and communications company representatives to learn what still needs to be done to restore communications.
Pai met personnel from carriers AT&T, Open Mobile, T-Mobile and Verizon as well as fixed wireless providers Aeronet and Neptuno Networks; wired providers like Claro/PRTC and Liberty and several radio broadcasters. “They have stepped up to the plate, working overtime to connect the disconnected,” he said.
Pai called the damage “unimaginable” and said: “I saw some of it for myself, from a mountaintop tower in El Yunque National Forest, which is hard to reach due to storm damage but is precariously operational, to destroyed homes in San Juan. The path to recovery has met several challenges, most notably the lack of power and functional infrastructure. One thing is clear: overcoming these challenges won’t be easy,” the Chairman added in Tuesday’s announcement.
Pai met with various officials, including President Sandra Torres López and Associate Member Alexandra Fernández Navarro of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, as well as others to learn what has been done to improve communications on the island and what is still needed. He credited the resilient people of Puerto Rico, Federal Emergency Management Agency staff on the ground and “the FCC’s own Roberto Mussenden, who has spent the past month away from his family on the mainland in order to help the island where he grew up.” Mussenden is an attorney in the FCC’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
The FCC advanced $77 million in Universal Service Funding to help facilitate network restoration and Pai characterized “how the speedy decision to allow a fixed wireless provider to access 5GHz spectrum enabled it to quickly establish connectivity.” He believes “more funding” will be needed.
The FCC told Inside Towers the tower Pai visited supports public safety land mobile operations.
November 8, 2017