FCC Commissioner Details Trip to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands on Hurricane Recovery
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 | Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai published a blog recapping his trip to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The chairman, along with members of the Hurricane Recovery Task Force, received a firsthand assessment of the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Nearly six months have passed since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, communications networks were virtually wiped out. More than 95 percent of cell sites were out in Puerto Rico and 77 percent of cell sites were out in the Virgin Islands. Currently, 4.4 percent and 13.8 percent of cell sites are still out in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, respectively. Many still lack connectivity and basic infrastructure.

The FCC group heard many perspectives on communications-related recovery efforts during a roundtable organized by U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón in San Juan. The roundtable included representatives of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among many others.

The FCC also participated in a meeting of the hurricane integration team (HIT) in the Virgin Islands. The HIT was set up to establish direct coordination among federal partners — particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — the private sector and Virgin Islands officials to restore communications services. FEMA staff, along with the head of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Authority, discussed the progress.

The group also visited 9-1-1 call centers in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where we heard about some of the challenges emergency responders had fielding calls and dispatching help to residents.

“There’s much to do in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to recover from last year’s hurricane season, but residents are incredibly strong and resilient,” Pai said. “We felt that spirit during the meetings described above, as well as visits to two schools, two hospitals, a police station and more. The FCC will continue to stand side by side with them throughout the recovery and restoration process. … We’ll take back the lessons we learned to the FCC and do all we can to help people get back on their feet.”

The full blog and photos are here.

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