FCC to Provide $211 Million in Aid

The head of the Federal Communications Commission (search) announced Thursday plans to provide $211 million in aid to Hurricane Katrina victims to help restore phone service in areas hit hardest hit by the storm.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the money would provide eligible evacuees with free telephone minutes, as well as help schools, libraries, health care providers and telecommunications carriers affected by the hurricane.

In addition, Martin said, the money would establish a panel of experts in communications and public safety to review the impact of Katrina and make recommendations about how the FCC should respond to future disasters.

"From this process we need to learn what worked, what did not and what the commission should do now," Martin said, speaking at the FCC's monthly public meeting.

He also announced plans to create a new Homeland Security (search) bureau to coordinate national security and disaster management activities within the FCC.

"It's not that the commission hasn't acted in the past. It hasn't done enough," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said. "If Hurricane Katrina was about anything other than nature's wrath, it was about communications."