Wrapping up a 2-day visit to Puerto Rico on Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, recognized Amateur Radio volunteers in praising those who turned out to help the stricken Commonwealth in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“[T]he worst of tragedies can also bring out the best in people. I saw that firsthand during my 2 days in Puerto Rico,” Pai said. “Everyone is pitching in: The people of Puerto Rico helping their neighbors, hardworking Federal Emergency Management Agency staff — including communications personnel in Emergency Support Function #2 — the dedicated regulators of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board, and the FCC’s own Roberto Mussenden, who has spent the past month away from his family on the mainland in order to help the island where he grew up.”
“Additionally, Amateur Radio operators, broadcasters, cable operators, fixed wireless companies, wireline carriers, and mobile providers have stepped up to the plate, working overtime to connect the disconnected,” Pai continued. “All of this work reflects the ethos I saw on many signs and t-shirts during my time on the island: ‘Puerto Rico Se Levanta’ [Puerto Rico is Rising].”
Pai said recovering from Hurricane Maria will require an all-hands-on-deck effort, and the FCC “remains committed to doing everything we can to help restore communications networks as quickly as possible.” He also expressed his belief that that “more funding will be needed” in the months ahead.
In October, the FCC granted ARRL’s request to waive current Amateur Radio rules to permit data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted, in order to facilitate hurricane relief communications between the continental US and Puerto Rico. The temporary waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators in Puerto Rico using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions, and to those radio amateurs in the continental US who are directly involved with HF hurricane relief communications involving Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, the Commission said at the time.
During his stay in Puerto Rico, Pai visited various parts of San Juan and towns along the northeastern coast. He also inspected a tower site and associated infrastructure on mountains in El Yunque National Forest. That infrastructure serves a critical role in providing connectivity in the eastern part of Puerto Rico, particularly for first responders. While there, he met with President Sandra Torres López and Associate Member Alexandra Fernández Navarro of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, attended a briefing hosted by FEMA and attended by staff from ESF-2, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service, the Small Business Administration, and others, and with representatives from numerous communications entities, including fixed wireless providers and broadcasters.
“The path to recovery has met several challenges, most notably the lack of power and functional infrastructure,” Pai said. “One thing is clear: Overcoming these challenges won’t be easy.”
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