Sep 26, 2019

FCC funds broadband expansion in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

People try to get a signal before a cellular communications tower on the expressway in Dorado, Puerto Rico, in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a total of $950 million to bolster broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 2 years after the islands sustained severe damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Why it matters: Hurricanes can wreak havoc on communications networks, making rescue and recovery efforts even more difficult.

Details: Last year, the FCC doled out more than $60 million to the islands to restore networks after the storms. This next tranche of money is geared toward building "resilient and reliable networks that will stand the test of time," per an FCC press release.

  • $500 million will be allocated over 10 years to Puerto Rico for fixed broadband support, and $250 million over 3 years for mobile support.
  • $180 million over 10 years will go to the U.S. Virgin Islands for fixed broadband, and $4 million over 3 years for mobile.
  • Broadband providers have to apply for the money based on performance, price and resiliency.

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Limited broadband access hurts economic mobility in poorest states

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Among the states that have fallen furthest behind on broadband access, a new Census Bureau report found that several also have some of the highest levels of poverty in the nation.

Why it matters: Inequality and the lack of broadband access have become inherently intertwined in the U.S. Without reliable high-speed internet access, it is more difficult to apply to the jobs and educational programs that can help people escape poverty. Similarly, those on limited incomes struggle to afford broadband access even where it's available.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

AT&T sells off assets in the Caribbean

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

As pressure mounts from an activist investor, AT&T said Wednesday it will sell its wireless and wired assets in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for about $2 billion to Liberty Latin America.

Why it matters: AT&T is looking for assets to sell to alleviate debt, and analysts say the properties in the hurricane-prone islands are a logical target.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

Appeals court largely upholds FCC on ending net neutrality

Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communication Commission building against the end of net neutrality rules in December 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a complex ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the Federal Communications Commission's move to end net neutrality protections, but allowed states to set their own rules and sent portions of the original order back to the commission for clarification and review.

Why it matters: For a decade, net neutrality rules, which aim to prevent owners of internet networks from favoring some content and traffic, have been a lightning rod for conflict over internet governance. The new ruling means the FCC's 2017 removal of national net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration will stand, but opens the door to individual states mandating their own net neutrality protections.

Go deeperArrowOct 1, 2019