RELEASE: The FCC Must Aid Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands with More Proactive Steps to Restore Communications, Says National Hispanic Media Coalition and Four Other Public Interest Groups

For Immediate Release:
October 6, 2017

Contact:
Jareyah Bradley
jareyah@balestramedia.com
908-242-4822

The FCC Must Aid Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands with More Proactive Steps to Restore Communications, Says National Hispanic Media Coalition and Four Other Public Interest Groups

Today, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, along with the Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, Free Press and Public Knowledge sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission urging the FCC to implement additional measures to restore communications in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of devastation left by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. According to a recent FCC report, two weeks after Maria struck, over 84% of cell sites in Puerto Rico and 100% of cell sites in St. John remain out of service. The lack of communications is a crisis that needs to be addressed with extraordinary measures. The letter reads, “this lack of even basic communications hampers essential emergency and medical services and undermines critical relief efforts.”

View the letter to the FCC here: http://www.nhmc.org/fcc-must-aid-puerto-rico

The letter recognizes the FCC’s efforts and the recent order led by the Chairman making up to $76.9 million immediately available from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund for the restoration of communications services in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, the letter urges the FCC take additional steps in order to assist in swiftly restoring communications capabilities on the islands.

“Following the examples set after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, it is clear that the FCC has a larger role to play in restoring communications services in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Gloria Tristani, Former FCC Commissioner, and special policy advisor to the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “The FCC has never seen such a severe level of devastation where an entire population’s communications systems essentially collapsed. It is unprecedented, and that is why the FCC must take immediate and additional steps such as convening a team of experts to bring forward short-term and long-terms solutions. The FCC itself should implement creative and innovative solutions to restore communication services, which are so critical to essential emergency and medical services, as well as relief and recovery efforts on the islands.”

The letter provides a summary of the FCC’s response after both Hurricane Katrina and Sandy to illustrate measures that the Commission could implement without delay to remedy the lack of communications including:

  1. Convene a telephone conference of industry providers, equipment manufacturers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to organize and coordinate a response to the complete destruction of communications.
  2. Help coordinate and encourage deployment of temporary wireless networks using Wi-FI and other unlicensed spectrum, and authorize low-power FM stations.
  3. Broker temporary roaming agreements between wireless carriers to dramatically increase the availability of cell service to customers.

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The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is the media watchdog for the Latino community, ensuring that we are fairly and consistently represented in news and entertainment and that our voices are heard over the airwaves and on the internet.

We exist to challenge executives and influencers throughout the entertainment and news industry to eliminate barriers for Latinos to express themselves and be heard through every type of medium. NHMC works to bring decision-makers to the table to open new opportunities for Latinos to create, contribute and consume programming that is inclusive, free from bias and hate rhetoric, affordable and culturally relevant.

Receive real-time updates on Facebook, Twitter @NHMC and Instagram @NHMC_org.

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