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Puerto Rico telecom co.’s take FCC’s ‘Keep Americans Connected’ pledge

Three Puerto Rico-based technology and telecommunications service providers have responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s call to assist consumers during the COVID-19 crisis.

On March 13, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called on broadband and telephone service providers to promote connectivity to people affected by the disruptions caused by the coronavirus COVID-19, to ensure they do not lose broadband or telephone connectivity.

High-speed broadband providers AeroNet and Optico Fiber confirmed to the terms of the FCC’s call.

In alignment with the initiative, AeroNet agreed to operate under three guidelines over the next 60 days: “(1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; (2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and (3) open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.”

AeroNet President Gino Villarini.

“Our commitment with our customers goes above and beyond just offering internet connectivity,” AeroNet President Gino Villarini said. “We applaud Charmain’s Ajit Pai initiative to provide an economic relief to the American people, and we pledge to assist our community in this time of need.”

Meanwhile, Optico Fiber confirmed it has suspended all collection related activities until the end of April. No services will be suspended or disconnected for non-payment, it said.

The company has transitioned many employees to telework, while those that remain in its facilities are having their temperatures taken daily, are practicing “social distancing” and are frequently washing their hands and sanitizing their work areas, executives said.

“As Puerto Rico works to control the spread of the Coronavirus, Optico Fiber understands the important role that we play in our customer’s lives – keeping them connected to their work, to their schools, to the latest news and information, to medical resources, and to their family and friends,” said Optico Fiber President Carlo Marazzi.

“The continued connectivity of our customers, and everyone’s safety is our priority,” he said.

The company’s field service technicians are being provided with handwashing kits and materials to sanitize their vehicles and work areas, while they are prescreening and limiting entering customer premises.

T-Mobile gets additional spectrum
Building on the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” the FCC granted more bandwidth to T-Mobile on the 600 MHz spectrum to support increased demand, the agency confirmed. The temporary boost is for 60 days.

The company requested this authority to make it easier for people to participate in telehealth, distance learning, and telework, and simply remain connected while practicing recommended “social distancing.”

T-Mobile also indicated that this authority would enable it to be prepared to meet the needs of first responders. The added spectrum applies to Puerto Rico, local executives confirmed.

“This temporary authority will help T-Mobile better serve customers who, like all of us, are making significant adjustments to their daily lives to minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Pai said.

“In the days ahead, I look forward to taking additional actions, in partnership with the private sector, to keep Americans connected.” he said.

In addition, T-Mobile announced the following benefits for its customer base:

  • Starting now, all T-Mobile customers who have plans with data will have unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days (excluding roaming);
  • Working with Lifeline clients to provide them extra free data up to 5GB of data per month over the next two months;
  • Offering free international calling for ALL current T-Mobile customers to Level 3 impacted countries;
  • Providing T-Mobile customers an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot/tethering service for the next 60 days; and,
  • Supporting the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” focused on ensuring residential and small business customers with financial impacts do not lose service.

Over the weekend, measures were implemented at the local level in response to Gov. Wanda Vázquez’s executive order ordering a partial closure of businesses and a 24/7 lockdown.

“Office and store employees are working virtually, but our engineers and technicians and customer service staff continue to work taking all the necessary hygiene measures,” a local company spokesperson said.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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