The FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau on Thursday (1/11) granted a request from 20 broadcast TV stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria to permit them to construct post-auction facilities ahead of schedule.
Commenting on the move, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “We’re taking another important step to expedite the restoration of vital communications services.”
As of 11:22am Atlantic time Wednesday (1/10), few if any portions of Puerto Rico have full cellular phone service.
“Before today, many broadcast television stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were facing a choice between two bad options: either remain dark for months or years to come, or restore service on their pre-auction channel, only to have to rebuild their broadcast facility again in a year or two,” Pai said. “Now, stations are no longer confronting that choice because they’ll be able to use their post-auction channel more quickly. Moreover, affected stations will now be able to access the TV Broadcaster Reimbursement Fund to cover portions of their recovery costs attributable to the post-incentive auction channel reassignment.”
He continued, “The bottom line is that residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be able to access emergency communications and other valuable broadcast content sooner as a result of this decision. I’m grateful to the Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau for working with these stations on a creative solution.”
The FCC Chairman on Oct. 7, 2017 created an internal task force designed to continue the Commission’s work in support of the restoration of communications services in the Texas Gulf Coast, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — areas severely impacted by three strong hurricanes.
The task force launched with an emphasis on addressing the challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The October announcement by Pai of the formation of a Hurricane Recovery Task Force at the FCC was immediately embraced by Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
After all, she pushed for it.
In a communiqué released Sept. 5 by the Commissioner after the devastating floods along the Texas Gulf Coast following Hurricane Harvey, Rosenworcel said, “As we begin to assess Harvey’s horrible toll on human life and property, we will need to take stock of what worked, what didn’t, and how we can improve when it comes to our communications infrastructure.”