RELEASE: The National Hispanic Media Coalition and Free Press Call for Better FCC Disaster Recovery and Preparedness in Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18, 2018

CONTACT: Clarissa Corona 213.718.0732 communications@nhmc.org

The National Hispanic Media Coalition and Free Press Call for Better FCC Disaster Recovery and Preparedness in Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and Free Press filed joint comments with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to increase efforts to help Puerto Rico fully recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the island’s communication infrastructure over six months ago.

In their comments, NHMC and Free Press lifted up the voices of Puerto Ricans living on the island and in the states, who conveyed in their own words how the loss of communications services has impacted their lives. NHMC and Free Press also called on the FCC to take action by directly engaging Puerto Ricans across the island in the island’s predominant language, Spanish, to learn more about what happened and how to better prepare the telecommunications network to withstand natural disasters in the future. “The FCC must fully live up to its responsibility to restore and safeguard telecommunications in Puerto Rico,” said Gloria Tristani, former FCC Commissioner and NHMC Special Policy Advisor. “It is imperative that the FCC ensure that the island’s communications systems are resilient and that there is not a total collapse of communications when the next storm hits. The people of Puerto Rico deserve no less.” The organizations also called on the FCC to abandon efforts to destroy the Lifeline program, which would cause more harm to Puerto Ricans struggling to recover. Approximately 60 percent of eligible program recipients on the island currently receive Lifeline, which subsidizes access to essential communications services. The full FCC filing is available here. “The FCC has so far failed to fully engage Puerto Ricans to learn more about how their lives were disrupted and impacted by the communications failure in the wake of the hurricanes,” said Joseph Torres, Free Press Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement. “The FCC needs to seek input directly from the people and communities that were most impacted by this tragedy.” “After a natural disaster, access to communications are a matter of life and death. In Puerto Rico, we saw how the collapse of the communications system had a calamitous impact on emergency services and locating those in most dire need of basic necessities,” said Carmen Scurato, National Hispanic Media Coalition Vice President of Policy and General Counsel. “As we approach hurricane season the FCC must comprehensively assess what happened in Puerto Rico and put measures in place to mitigate, if not completely prevent the total loss of communications. We cannot allow this to ever happen again.” Last year, the FCC created a Hurricane Recovery Task Force and opened up a notice of inquiry to examine the impact on the communication infrastructure in the states and territories that were struck by hurricanes. This included Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. But so far, there has been an utter lack of transparency surrounding the Task Force’s activities. The agency’s central role is to ensure that citizens and residents have access to vital communication services. It has fallen short on its promise in Puerto Rico and should exhaust every opportunity to improve. NHMC and Free Press call on the FCC to:
  • Host roundtables, field hearings and town hall events in Puerto Rico in collaboration with NGOs, government officials, humanitarian organizations and local media. These events should focus on building the essential relationships across sectors to ensure the island fully recovers from the hurricane and to build resilience for future crises;
  • Create a collection story tool in English and Spanish to hear directly from Puerto Ricans and conduct extensive outreach to ensure this tool is utilized;
  • Significantly increase transparency around the Hurricane Recovery Task Force;
  • Terminate its Lifeline proceedings that will destroy the program;
  • Publish a detailed report on the impact of Hurricanes Maria and Irma on Puerto Rico and lessons learned; and
  • Reopen and adequately staff a field office in Puerto Rico.

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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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