Op-Ed: Liberty Puerto Rico wraps up ‘challenging year’ on positive note
This year brought us tough challenges and major achievements. Looking back, I feel very proud of our employees and how we handled this historic year. We shifted our operating model quickly and adapted to a new and completely unexpected scenario.
Overall, Liberty was very successful in providing connectivity and entertainment when it was most needed. We certainly had several service challenges due to the sudden increase in demand, the same as most communications companies worldwide, but we were able to supply internet, video and telephony services to residents and businesses so they could continue going about their lives, working, studying, and keeping in touch.
We’re very proud of enabling hundreds of thousands of employees and business owners to work remotely and as many students remain connected to their teachers.
Numbers speak for themselves. We added and retained more customers this year than ever before. Data consumption per household reached record high levels close to 500 Gigabytes per household per month, which is 20 times larger than mobile Internet usage per month.
We handled record number of calls and messages at our customer service center as well as a record number of new customer hook-ups. We also created almost 200 direct and indirect jobs in Puerto Rico.
Meeting internet access demand for residential and business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was a top priority for us this year. We’re continuously investing to make upgrades to our infrastructure and increase our network’s capacity, but the demand during the lockdown became so high that we had to advance almost a year’s worth of work in the first weeks of the pandemic.
We continued the upgrades throughout the year, increasing our distribution network capacity and our core network capacity by 1,300 Gbps to accommodate the increase of up to almost 70 percent in data consumption.
Since the start of the pandemic, we quickly mobilized to not only meet the demand for connectivity, but also to be a friendly hand to those in need. We put into place several initiatives to help customers facing financial hardship due to the pandemic and the island’s lockdown, such as adopting and expanding the Federal Communications Commission’s “Keep America Connected” pledge, waiving late and reconnection fees, offering discounts and payment plans, and introducing more affordable bundles.
Moreover, throughout the year, we have provided basic internet service for free to more than 11,000 customers who could not afford it, and we remain committed to helping as many homes and students as we can. We also carried out a program to assist our commercial customers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, to help them take advantage of the public and private incentives.
Additionally, we continued expanding our service footprint by building 25,000 new homes with our Fiber-to-the-Home connection, which provides speeds of up to 1Gbps. Fiber-to-the-Home is the standard of new construction since late 2019 and we will continue to reach new and existing customers in 2021.
This year also marked the launch of our new Hub TV, our IPTV console which has had a good response among our customers. We also had a couple of distinctions of which we’re very proud – the “2020 Speedtest Award” as Puerto Rico’s fastest fixed network for the fourth year in a row, and the “2020 Partners for Good Award” from Foundation for Puerto Rico in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative for the company’s commitment to communities in Puerto Rico.
One of our biggest achievements this year came on Nov. 2, when we completed the acquisition of AT&T’s operations in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Island. This makes us a four-play company by adding mobile to our video, fixed broadband and telephony services.
Combined, we have a workforce of more than 2,200 employees now. We have welcomed our new colleagues into our family and are currently working together to offer a great experience to our new and current customer base. We continue working with AT&T to enable the efficient transition of services and we’re completing the transition process to offer customer service locally with a company-owned call center in Puerto Rico, handling 100% of the calls with local agents.
We’re expanding our employee count to decrease waiting time and deliver quality experience to our customers. The build-out plan to deliver the highest performance 5G services throughout Puerto Rico and the USVI has been continued successfully, as well as network upgrades and maintenance programs.
We established a new standard for promotions and offers, making them applicable to existing as well as new customers. We launched the new iPhone 12 in our markets with great acceptance from customers.
Philanthropy is part of the bundle
We also partnered with Liberty Foundation, our corporate social responsibility arm, to provide Wi-Fi service and supplies to over six shelters set up in the hardest hit areas after the earthquakes that rocked Puerto Rico’s southwestern region in January. Our customers contributed $96,450 to the Liberty Foundation by donating the credits they would have received due to service interruptions.
The effort made it possible for 2,000 public high school students in the island’s southwest region to finish the spring semester through the “Give a Child the New Virtual School” project.
On Dec. 4, the Liberty Foundation successfully held a virtual edition of its 23rd Liberty Foundation Golf Invitational — A New Reality Tournament with a record-breaking donation of $500,000 distributed among 23 nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico and the USVI.
The game took place at a virtual golf course created exclusively for the tournament by a very talented Puerto Rican video production startup named VeoVeo. This marked the first time that a golf tournament was held in virtual form in Puerto Rico or across the Caribbean.
Plans in the pipeline
Next year, we will continue rolling out our Fiber-to-the-Home new build initiative to continue expanding our footprint on the island. We will also launch innovative products that will enhance customers’ entertainment experience.
During Q1 2021, our video customers will have even more flexibility to watch their favorite content whenever they want, wherever they go. For internet customers, we have something exciting in store that we will be launching during the first half of the year. Plus, we will also begin a new service that will add even more convenience to our customers when they acquire new or upgraded services.
Throughout the year, we will continue announcing more news about the combined operations, in addition to the integration of our newly-acquired mobile services.
We’re winding down a difficult year, but we have a lot of reasons to look forward to the new year. Hopefully, we will see the end of the pandemic soon, in addition to some new and exciting things coming from Liberty Puerto Rico.