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FCC to consider extending system-strengthening support for PR, USVI fixed broadband providers


According to the Federal Communications Commission, the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico demonstrates that critical communications infrastructure in areas prone to hurricanes must be built to withstand storm damage and have redundant capabilities.

By The Star Staff


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at its October Open Commission meeting will consider a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) to support mobile carriers and extend the support phase-down for incumbent fixed broadband providers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to enhance their networks’ reliability and resiliency in the face of natural disasters.


The announcement was made by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel as she listed five items that are tentatively on the agenda for the October Open Commission Meeting. The FNPRM is part of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and the Connect USVI Fund, created in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes to ensure the restoration, hardening and expansion of advanced telecommunications networks in the territories.


According to the FCC, the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico demonstrates that critical communications infrastructure in areas prone to hurricanes must be built to withstand storm damage and have redundant capabilities.


The FNPRM proposes another step for mobile and fixed broadband funding in Puerto Rico and the USVI to restore, harden and expand the vital networks, according to a statement.


“The current three-year mobile support term for carriers in Puerto Rico and the USVI ends starting in June 2023,” the FCC said. “This FNPRM proposes a period of up to 24 months of transitional support for mobile carriers so they can continue to provide service and ensure that their networks are sufficiently resilient to withstand the impact of natural disasters.”


The FNPRM also proposes extending the phase-down of frozen support for incumbent fixed providers in Puerto Rico and the USVI for the areas in which they were not awarded long-term support for broadband services.


“Because the frozen support for those providers is scheduled to end in June of 2023, this item proposes extending the existing support amount until December 2025,” the FCC said.


What the FNPRM would do is propose transitional support for mobile carriers, as a lapse in funding may leave progress already made in increasing the robustness of existing 4G telecom services and expanding 5G at risk.


It would also seek comment on a variety of aspects of mobile transitional support, including eligible areas where support may be used, appropriate technological uses of transition support, the proper support term, the appropriate amount of transitional support, and any reporting and minimum service requirements. In addition, it would also seek comment on whether, and to what extent, the new maps generated as part of the Broadband Data Collection should be used to determine mobile support in Puerto Rico and the USVI.


Another thing it would do is propose extending phase-down frozen support for fixed providers in Puerto Rico and the USVI who were not awarded long-term, competitive support in a given area, and require all phase-down frozen support to be used on network resiliency and redundancy.

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