Restoring broadcast communications in Puerto Rico remains a long-haul venture, as dozens of FM and AM stations remain out of operation across the island.
According to the Puerto Rican Broadcast Association, 22 FM stations are confirmed out of service, eight are suspected to be out of service and three stations have been issued special temporary authority to be offline.
AM stations are in a similar situation: 23 AM stations are confirmed still out of service, eight are suspected to be out of service, and two AM stations have been issued STAs to be offline.
There is also a whole other category when it comes to impacted stations: stations whose operational status cannot be unconfirmed at all. In all, 31 FM radio stations and 1 AM radio station have an unconfirmed status.
Data on both radio and TV stations as well as cellular communications outages is being collected via the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System. The FCC also has an information page dedicated to the FCC’s Hurricane Maria news.
Other stations across the island are back up and running. As of Nov. 6, a total of 47 FM radio stations and 40 AM stations are confirmed operational.
The NAB has also taking steps to improve communications. A staff member blogged about her recent travels to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to help distribute 10,000 battery-operated radios across the islands.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that restoring communications to Puerto Rico remains a priority, and he’s put his feet on the ground to research the situation. As of press time Monday evening he was visiting the island to meet with government and industry officials to assess the status of recovery efforts. He also plans to gather intel on the next steps the FCC should take to assist in the restoration of communications networks.
In a letter sent before Pai’s trip was announced, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) pressed the chairman to begin the process of reviewing the resiliency of the nation’s networks, as well as conduct field hearings to uncover what led to such widespread destruction of 911 infrastructure during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Pai responded with details on the establishment of a Hurricane Recovery Task Force at the FCC. The commission also plans to release a Public Notice seeking input on what worked during the hurricanes in terms of communications continuity and restoration, as well as areas for improvement.
When asked what the FCC’s “end date in Puerto Rico” would be during a during an October press conference, Pai said he had personally been on the phone with the FEMA administrator, wireless carriers, tower companies, Puerto Rican officials and others to see what the FCC can do to help. “So one way or the other, I think the FCC is going to be in the mix, so to speak, for some time,” he said.
Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the FCC has provided approximately $77 million in advanced universal service funding to restore communications service, though those funds are targeted toward cellular infrastructure, not broadcast.