We’re writing this piece as Puerto Ricans who are angered by the government’s failed response to the destruction Hurricane Maria caused to Puerto Rico last September.
The ability to speak and be heard is a basic human right. And the ability to communicate during a disaster is a life-and-death issue.
But both are often denied to people of color.
This has been the case in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, leaving the island without power and phone service, and damaging 95 percent of all cell towers. And the press has reported that at least 1,000 people have died.
Now, four months later, about a third of the population is still without power and close to 10 percent of the island’s cellphone towers still haven’t been repaired. In addition, home internet services have yet to be restored to at least a third of the island.
This is why it’s critical for the FCC to hear from and listen to the Puerto Rican community on the impact Hurricane Maria has had on their ability to access communications services — and how this has affected their lives.
The FCC is seeking public comment on the effects on the communications infrastructure from the four hurricanes that struck seven states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017.
It’s the FCC’s job to ensure the public has access to a working communications network, especially during a disaster. But after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans had to travel long distances to find cellphone reception so they could talk with their loved ones and find the help that they needed.
There is so much the public still doesn’t know about what the government and the communications industry did before and after the hurricane to ensure service on the island wasn’t lost — or was quickly restored in the event of an outage.
It’s critical for the FCC to hear from the Puerto Rican community about the challenges they’re facing in being able to access communications services — and what can be done to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.