WASHINGTON — On Friday, a coalition of groups sent a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to use all of the House’s oversight powers to investigate how the Trump Federal Communications Commission responded to the communications breakdown in Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.
“The expert agencies tasked with restoring communication services — the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — have failed to investigate why these communications networks collapsed,” reads the letter, which was signed by 35 groups and individuals, including Color Of Change, Collective Action for Puerto Rico, Common Cause, Free Press Action, Greenpeace USA, MediaJustice, Mijente and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “The FCC has produced scant information in response to our Freedom of Information Act request on why it took so long to restore service, and in fact that service has yet to be fully restored. FEMA has yet to produce a single document.”
The full letter is available here (PDF).
Free Press Action Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement Joseph Torres made the following statement:
“It’s been two years since one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history left thousands dead, and our federal government — specifically the FCC — has failed to investigate all the factors that contributed to the collapse of Puerto Rico’s communications networks. That’s unconscionable.
“We must learn what happened so we can fix what went wrong and replicate what went right. The inability of Puerto Ricans to communicate after Maria contributed to the historic death toll. And as storms like Maria and Dorian, which recently devastated the Bahamas, become the norm due to climate change, it’s critical that we understand what policies government must adopt to ensure that we build communications networks that can help save lives.
“This is important everywhere but especially in communities where people of color and the poor are most impacted by climate change. This is why we sent today’s letter to House leadership. Our broad coalition is urging them to take a hard look at the breakdown of communications in Puerto Rico. Understanding what happened can save lives during future disasters and force elected officials to create resilient telecom infrastructure before the next deadly storm makes landfall.”