Local telecoms are committed to ensure connectivity
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority (ASTCA) and Bluesky American Samoa are committed to ensuring connectivity to local residents as the coronavirus spreads across all US states, three US territories and a majority of countries around the world.
With the closure of all public and private schools, and students becoming dependent on online courses, there have been inquiries as to whether the two local telecom providers have plans in place to assist students and teachers as well as others in government that will be required to work from home.
Both ASTCA and Bluesky provide wireless and internet service, with ASTCA providing landline service. Many ASG agencies also use ASTCA services, and ASG employees have questioned whether the government owned telecom has sufficient capacity to address the demand, now and in the future when American Samoa activates the higher threat levels — Code-Yellow and Code-Red.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, ASTCA chief executive officer Lewis Wolman says “ASTCA is taking many steps to ensure uninterrupted voice and data service as demand grows and as it becomes more challenging for us to maintain normal work practices and supply chain fulfillment.”
He also says that ASTCA “is monitoring demands on our broadband network and is prepared to increase bandwidth allocations for customers if they are experiencing slowdowns.” Furthermore, ASTCA is preparing to promote use of mobile phones and MyFi devices as "hotspots" that can be used anyplace to access the Internet and share that access with other devices — e.g., tablets and computers.
“ASTCA is encouraging customers with landlines and no broadband Internet service to contact us about adding Internet service to their accounts,” said Wolman, adding that ASTCA will continue to sign up and install new customers to its landline voice/ broadband service, “but we anticipate increased demand that may lead to longer installation waits.”
As for public schools, ASTCA “is standing by to respond” to local Education Department requests related to education-specific initiatives,” he said, noting that ASTCA is “implementing strong hygiene and social distance actions for our retail shops and our field crews, to protect our staff and the public.”
Bluesky said in a written statement — responding to Samoa News inquiries send to its CEO Raj Deo — that as a corporate member of local community, the Bluesky team is “vigilantly monitoring” the COVID-19 situation locally and has already initiated the necessary preparations internally in alignment with the Governor’s emergency declaration in combatting the coronavirus.
“We recognize that we as a community will be faced with tremendous uncertain and unpredictable challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” it says, adding that Bluesky “plans and current actions are in place to protect the health, safety and well-being of our employees and customers while being able to deliver consistent quality service — mobile voice, data, internet, text, TV and other ICT services — to our customers during the emergency period.”
“We will soon launch multiple plans to meet the needs and demands of our various customers: residential, business, schools, and other organizations,” according to Bluesky, which also offers MyFi devices.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges that many Americans will face in the coming months, US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai recently announced the “Keep Americans Connected Initiative”.
Pai asked broadband and telephone service providers, and trade associations to sign on to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances with COVID-19.
When asked about pledging to be part of this federal initiative, ASTCA board chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira told Samoa News that “ASTCA has made the commitment to the Governor that it will do everything within its capacity to make sure connectivity within American Samoa and the outside world will not be interrupted.”
“That is our moral, ethical, and operational commitment to the people of American Samoa and its leaders,” he added.
Asked about its pledge to the FCC initiate, Bluesky said that “our action to pledge will be dependent on the local situation.” According to Bluesky should the emergency situation escalate from the current Code-Blue to code levels Yellow and Red, “we do plan to pledge and take the necessary actions required of telecommunications companies across the US.”
The two telecom providers have on their facebook pages, additional information on measures taken to combat the spread of the virus.