More than 95% of cell sites in Puerto Rico were down today due to widespread damage caused by Hurricane Maria, the FCC said. “Hurricane Maria has had a catastrophic impact on Puerto Rico’s communications networks,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “For example, over 95% of Puerto Rico’s wireless cell sites are currently out of service. The FCC is proactively reaching out to communications providers in Puerto Rico to gather additional information about the situation on the ground and find out if there is anything that the Commission can do to assist with restoration efforts. We are also working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and providing all requested support. Unfortunately, getting Puerto Rico’s communications networks up and running will be a challenging process, particularly given the power outages throughout the island. But the FCC stands ready to do whatever we can to help with this task.”
The outage data came from information submitted to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), which has been activated for all counties in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “It should also be noted that many communications providers have not yet reported in DIRS, so outage information almost certainly is not complete,” the FCC said in an outage report released this afternoon that reflected information reported as of 11 a.m.
In Puerto Rico, “95.2% of cell sites are out of service,” the FCC said in the report. “All counties in Puerto Rico have greater than 75% of their cell sites out of service. 48 out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico have 100% of their cell sites out of service.”
In the Virgin Islands, “76.6% of cell sites are out of service. All counties have 60% or more of their cell sites out of service,” the report said.
Regarding public safety answering points (PSAPs), the FCC said “that the two PSAPs in Puerto Rico are functioning normally. Two PSAPs in the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix 9-1-1 Call Center and St. Thomas 9-1-1 Call Center) are unable to retrieve Phase I and Phase II location information for wireless callers and Automatic Number Identification (ANI)/ALI for VoIP Callers.”
There was no or little information on outages involving cable systems and wireline operations and broadcast stations. “Since there are widespread power outages in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the FCC has received reports that large percentages of consumers are without either cable services or wireline service,” the report said, while providing no numbers.
It also said that only one TV station in Puerto Rico reported being off the air, while other stations had not yet reported. No radio stations had reported information to DIRS. Meanwhile, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau today granted, on its own motion, a temporary waiver of the agency’s rule “for aging telephone numbers for residential customers in those areas declared a major disaster due to Hurricane Maria and possibly Hurricane Jose, and the numbering administrators that support them, to deviate from section 52.15(f)(ii) of the Commission’s rules regarding number assignments. Section 52.15(f)(ii) of the Commission’s rules allows carriers to age numbers for no more than 90 days before making them available for assignment to other customers. If territories or states were previously covered in a prior waiver order, this order supplements that order and extends the waiver time period.”
“Also, because of substantial damage to telecommunications systems we expect to be caused by Hurricane Maria, and possibly by Hurricane Jose, to areas within their paths, we recognize that customers in the affected rate centers may desire to port numbers to locations outside those rate centers,” the bureau added in the order in CC dockets 95-116 and 99-200. “Therefore, during this period of service interruption, we encourage service providers to port telephone numbers geographically outside a rate center to the extent it is technically feasible. We also encourage all providers in the areas affected by Hurricane Maria, and those possibly affected by Hurricane Jose, to waive call forwarding, message center, and voicemail service charges for affected customers, to the extent lawfully permitted, until the customers’ service is restored.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org