FCC Approves $237.9M in Hardening Funding to USVI, Puerto Rico Carriers
Monday, June 15, 2020 | Comments

The FCC approved $237.9 million in funding to three carriers in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico as part of its Uniendo a Puerto Rico and Connect USVI programs. The funds are intended to help harden 4G networks and further the deployment of 5G in the area.

AT&T received $73.3 million for hardening 4G networks and $24.452 million for 5G deployment in Puerto Rico for a total of $97.7 million over the three-year period of the program. AT&T also received $2.995 million for 4G hardening and $998,446 for 5G deployment in the USVI.

Telecommunications of Puerto Rico (PRTC) received $57.4 million for 4G hardening and $19.1 million for 5G deployment, and T-Mobile received $44.6 million for 4G hardening and $14.89 million for 5G deployment in Puerto Rico.

The FCC created the two funds to restore, harden and expand 4G and 5G technology for voice and broadband service in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Mobile providers in the two territories could elect to receive a pro-rata share of the funds allocated for each territory based on the number of subscribers served as of June 30, 2017.

Each mobile provider could elect to receive up to 75% of its pro-rata share for use towards the restoration, hardening, upgrading and expansion of networks capable of providing 4G LTE or better services and up to 25% of pro-rata share for use towards the deployment of 5G mobile network technology based services.

The funds for the program come from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF). The funding must be used to help restore and improve coverage and service quality to pre-hurricane levels and to safeguard equipment against future natural disasters.

To receive the funding, the carriers had to certify their subscriber numbers as June 30, 2017, and had to provide disaster response and recovery plans that strengthen infrastructure, ensure network diversity, ensure backup power, monitor the network and provide emergency preparedness.

In October, AT&T announced plans to sell its wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and USVI to Liberty Latin America, while retaining its First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) responsibilities, but the deal has not closed yet. Under the original terms, AT&T planned to receive $1.95 billion in cash at close.

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