The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted “special temporary authority” to carrier AT&T to use additional spectrum to serve Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands during the coronavirus pandemic.
The FCC is granting AT&T access to the AWS-4 spectrum, currently licensed to DISH, for 60 days to expand its network capacity to meet expected increases in network traffic as a result of more Americans on the islands working from home, social distancing, and sheltering in place.
“Staying connected while staying apart is the reality right now across America during this pandemic, and that is no less true for those living in Puerto Rico and U.S Virgin Islands,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“We have put a special emphasis on helping those on the islands stay connected following the terrible storms that hit them in recent years,” he said. “And we continue that work today in a new kind of emergency.”
“I thank DISH for consenting to this use of its spectrum and to the U.S. Department of Justice for its cooperation. I’m grateful to AT&T for requesting this STA and I’m pleased we can grant it,” said Pai.
The FCC has granted STA to a number of carriers around the country since the start of the national emergency.
The FCC has placed a special priority on ensuring that communications networks are available and resilient for the people of Puerto Rico and the USVI. Last year, the commission voted to allocate more than $900 million in support for fixed and mobile broadband networks on the islands through the “Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund” and the “Connect USVI Fund.”
In a statement, AT&T offered a rundown of the measures it has taken to help customers in Puerto Rico and the USVI.
“Starting today AT&T Prepaid is offering three new ways to help ease financial stress during these difficult times,” the carrier said.
- New $15 plan for 2GB of data with unlimited talk and text will be available to new and existing customers with no activation fee;
- An automatic 10GB per month of additional data is being added temporarily to all capped phone plans for 60 days;
- Customers with an Unlimited Plus plan with tethering will receive 10GB of additional tethering per month for 60 days.
Furthermore, for the next 60 days, the carrier will:
- Not terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- Waive any late payment fees that any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer may incur because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic; and,
- Waive domestic wireless plan overage charges for data, voice or text for residential or small business wireless customers incurred because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic.
AT&T stores in Puerto Rico will remain closed until further notice, in response to the general business lockdown and 24/7 shelter in place mandate by Gov. Wanda Vázquez, which has been extended to April 12.