Building A Resilient Telecommunications Sector in Puerto Rico in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Published in: Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy, Volume 2, Number 1, pages 75–96 (Spring/Summer 2021). doi: 10.18278/jcip.2.1.7

Posted on RAND.org on August 03, 2021

by Amado Cordova, Karlyn D. Stanley, Ajay K. Kochhar, Ryan Consaul, Justin Hannah Hodiak

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In September 2017, following two catastrophic hurricanes, Puerto Rico's wireline, wireless and cable networks were rendered largely inoperable. As this article will illustrate, the causes of this devastating failure of the telecommunications sector were not attributable to Hurricanes Irma and Maria alone. The hurricanes revealed the fragility of Puerto Rico's telecommunications infrastructure, which failed, leaving the majority of Puerto Rican citizens without a means to communicate by phone or by Internet or to reach 911 for emergency services for weeks or months. This article will also summarize the 33 courses of action (COAs) for rebuilding the telecommunications sector that were proposed by the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) operated by the RAND Corporation and adopted by the government of Puerto Rico. These COAs were prepared as part of the Congressionally mandated Puerto Rico economic and disaster recovery plan. Even though significant progress has been made toward recovery in Puerto Rico, substantial investment is still required to achieve a resilient and robust telecommunications sector. The estimated cost for the 33 COAs was $3.2 billion. The overall cost estimate for the Puerto Rico recovery plan, including all sectors, was $139 billion.

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