(Adds comments from FCC chairman, background)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - More than 91 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico remain out of service as the island struggles to restore electrical and communications services, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday.
The number of cell sites out of service rose to 91.1 percent, from 90.9 percent from a day earlier, while 31 counties out of 78 counties have all cell sites out of service, up from 29 a day earlier, the FCC said. The FCC also said the number of cell sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands out of service rose to 66 percent Wednesday, up from 61.3 percent a day earlier.
The increase in outages may be due to workers or residents accidentally cutting lines while clearing debris, said an official at the FCC who asked not to be named. The official also said the percentage is expected to fluctuate as companies work to make repairs.
Widespread power outages in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also resulted in large percentages of consumers without either cable or internet service.
At least nine radio stations and one TV station in Puerto Rico also remain off the air, the FCC said.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday he has spoken to top officials of phone companies serving Puerto Rico, offering “to assist these companies in restoring communications throughout the island.”
Pai also spoke to Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to emphasize “the importance of prioritizing the delivery of fuel, generators, and other equipment on the island to communications providers in order to get their networks up and running.”
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker