The FCC has approved $950 million in funding to improve, expand, and harden communications networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The funding was initially proposed on Sept. 5.
Two years ago, communications infrastructure on the islands was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The FCC responded, among other steps, by creating the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and the Connect USVI Fund. To date, the FCC has provided about $130 million in additional, one-time Universal Service Fund support to assist with network restoration. With restoration work substantially complete, the FCC today voted to approve the next stage of funding, which is intended to provide mid- and long-term support to deploy resilient, reliable networks that will stand the test of time.
To accomplish these goals in Puerto Rico, the FCC voted to allocate more than $500 million over 10 years in fixed broadband support and more than $250 million over three years in mobile broadband support. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the FCC allocated more than $180 million over 10 years in support for fixed networks and $4 million over three years for mobile networks.
Fixed broadband support will be awarded through a competitive process, in which service providers will bid to serve every location in each covered area with up to gigabit speeds. Providers' applications will be scored based on objective criteria in three categories: price per location served, network performance (speed and latency), and network resiliency and redundancy. Support for mobile services will be awarded to providers that were offering mobile services in the Territories prior to the hurricanes in order to expand and harden 4G LTE networks and deploy 5G networks.