Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint work at restoring service in Puerto Rico

hurricane (Pixabay)
About 60% of the population is now reported to be covered by wireless carriers in Puerto Rico.

The FCC has been busy approving Special Temporary Authority (STA) applications to carriers to help re-establish communications in Puerto Rico, where much of the island remains without phone service or electricity.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s chief of staff, Matthew Berry, tweeted the news on Thursday with a shout-out: “Great work by our staff!”

The FCC’s wireless bureau issued eight STAs in total as of early Thursday and another seven STAs for Puerto Rico and four for California as of Friday, according to Berry’s Twitter account.

The eight that previously were awarded included an STA to allow for short-term spectrum management between Verizon Wireless and Puerto Rico Wireless, as well as STAs to assist with re-establishing communications in Puerto Rico for AT&T, Sprint and PR Wireless, according to an FCC spokesperson.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray tweeted Oct. 10 that 50 new volunteers from across the U.S. arrived in Puerto Rico, with teams working around the clock toward recovery, promising “we won’t stop!”

“We continue to make progress with recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. More supplies and gear arriving every day,” he tweeted on Oct. 9.

The four major wireless companies opened up roaming on the islands so that they, collectively, can serve the maximum population with the current coverage available, the FCC said in its regular update (PDF) on the situation. Hurricane Maria hit the area three weeks ago.

The operators are coordinating and prioritizing the recovery of cell sites and placement of temporary assets with the other carriers to maximize the coverage for all subscribers, the FCC said. Satellite Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs) and Terrestrial Cells on Wheels (COWs) have been deployed; about 60% (up from 54% the previous day) of the population was reported to be covered by wireless carriers in Puerto Rico.

RELATED: Loon gets OK to help provide emergency cell service in Puerto Rico

Others are trying to assist as well. On Oct. 6, the FCC granted an experimental license for Project Loon to help provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico. Loon wasn’t offering service yet as of earlier this week, but they needed the STA to work toward the goal of integrating with a telco partner’s network.

Included in the Loon application were letters from spectrum license holders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands providing their consent for Loon to use frequencies granted to them. Loon said it also holds all necessary government authorizations for the related aeronautical activities.

Facebook flew in employees to Puerto Rico from its connectivity team to work with a tech-focused nonprofit called NetHope to help get the territory back online, ReCode reported. Facebook’s connectivity team is the group that is building its internet-beaming drones.