Utilities begin to reconnect phone, Internet service to Puerto Rico after hurricane

The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona is seen in a photograph taken above a city in Puerto Rico on Monday, September 19, 2022.
The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona is seen in a photograph taken above a city in Puerto Rico on Monday, September 19, 2022. (Photo by John Priddy, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol; Graphic by The Desk)

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Thousands of cable, phone and Internet customers in Puerto Rico are back online after Hurricane Fion damaged the island’s communications infrastructure earlier this week.

On Wednesday, officials with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said more than 50,000 customers had their cable, phone or Internet service restored between Tuesday and this morning, but warned more than 745,000 customers were still without any or all of those three utilities.

Additionally, the FCC said around 29 percent of the country’s cell phone towers were down, a slight improvement from the 30 percent figure reported on Tuesday.

Most of the outages are the result of widespread power blackouts across Puerto Rico, which left more than 1.4 million residents without electricity immediately after Hurricane Fiona crossed over the island as a Category 1 storm last weekend.

On Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, which allowed officials there to take advantage of federal emergency resources and funds. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were deployed to the island earlier this week. Some FEMA officials began arriving in Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

The FCC said it is helping broadcasters and other utilities that fall under its purview in the aftermath of the storm. The agency said it will delay deadlines for television and radio stations to update their public inspection files, and is working to develop partnerships between wireless phone companies that will allow customers to roam on each other’s networks.

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