REC Networks, an advocacy group for low-power stations, added its voice to those calling for more assistance from the Federal Communications Commission in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
“REC calls upon the Chairman [Ajit] Pai and the rest of the FCC to step-up the assistance to Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I.,” REC said in its statement. “We are also calling on the grassroots radio community as well as the full-service radio community to step up and help out in any way that they can.”
In addition to nearly a dozen radio and TV stations that are out of service, more than 81% of cell sites remain out of service in Puerto Rico. Colors in the map correspond to the percentage of cell sites out of service by county. (Source: FCC DIRS database)
REC Networks founder Michelle Bradley has established a telephone access line in Puerto Rico and is offering support for low-power stations affected by the storms.
REC said it stands behind a statement submitted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition that called on Chairman Pai to do more to restore communications in for those islands.
The most recent communications status report from the FCC found that nine Puerto Rican radio stations and two television stations remain out of service more than three weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20. While 911 call centers are operational, a significant number of cell tower sites are out of service: more than 81% in Puerto Rican and more than 60% in the United States Virgin Islands.
This information is gleaned from the FCC Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), a self-reporting database that compiles network outage data from communications providers themselves.
The NHMC letter recognizes the FCC’s current efforts and the order led by Chairman Pai that would make up to $76.9 million immediately available from the commission’s Universal Service Fund to restore communications services. However, the FCC must take additional steps to help restore communications capabilities on the islands, the group said.
“[We] write to ask you, and your fellow commissioners, to take additional steps to highlight the communications crisis, reassure the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that he FCC is working for them, and to take any measures you can to assist in restoring emergency services,” the NHMC said.
While supporting the NHMC’s call for support, REC also turned the conversation to assessing the state of LPFM and any needs that exist for those broadcasters. Though REC said no LPFM has yet filed for silent authority, “this may be because principals of the station may have not been able to reach someone to file a silent STA,” the group said.
REC suggests that temporary emergency facilities be permitted to operate for as long as necessary — similar to the emergency operation put in place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — until full-service FM services can be better restored. REC also supports temporary power increases to any LPFM stations that are currently operating until full FM services are restored on the island.
REC Networks established a telephone number in Puerto Rico — (787) 334-3199 — and any LPFM station needing assistance should contact REC by telephone or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. REC plans to help LPFM stations file silent authority and restoration of operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I. at no charge until further notice.