Cutting off communication for Puerto Rican hurricane victims is just cruel

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission is pushing forward with changes to the Lifeline program, which would hamper recovery efforts and cut off hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans — who are also US citizens — from vital telecommunications services. The Trump administration’s FCC has proposed changes that would sharply alter the purpose and scope of the program, further antagonizing hurricane victims who are still struggling to rebuild. Before the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season, over 500,000 island households relied on the Lifeline program to stay connected. After the storms, 95.6 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico were out of service. Although the number has been reduced to 4.2 percent of cell sites, access to Lifeline is instrumental in helping Puerto Ricans recover and rebuild. The FCC’s proposals cruelly and inexplicably threaten to disconnect over 369,000 Lifeline customers in Puerto Rico alone. The FCC’s justification for these proposals relies on the pretext that the changes would stimulate investment in broadband networks; but there simply is no evidence that these changes would bring such a result. To the contrary, they would be counterproductive. What is abundantly clear is that the FCC proposals would not only result in unnecessary hardships to Puerto Ricans, Texans, and Floridians impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, but particularly harm low-income Americans across the United States.

[Carmen Scutaro is the vice president of Policy and General Counsel of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Gloria Tristani is a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission and is the special policy advisor of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.]


Cutting off communication for Puerto Rican hurricane victims is just cruel