Dallas Based AT&T has kept its pledge on the U.S. government’s request to “Keep Americans Connected,” according to AT&T Executive Mike Peterson.
In a video briefing Monday, Dallas City Council Members told Peterson, AT&T has more work to do on providing service for connections, especially in Southern Dallas.
The Federal Communications Commission asked service providers to Keep Americans Connected by waiving disconnections and service penalties during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Peterson said AT&T went a step further, by expanding the number of people who would be eligible for reduced price service.
He said wireless voice and data usage has increased 21% in the past 10 weeks and line voice calling is up 73%.
Peterson said the company has also lived up to a promise made four years ago to improve fiber optic landline service for high-speed internet availability in Dallas, particularly for Southern Dallas.
“There is near-universal access to broadband in Dallas, but in many neighborhoods, they’re not taking it,” Peterson said.
Instead, Peterson said many customers rely on wireless cell phone service for internet access.
City Council Member Tennell Atkins said wireless service needs improvement in his Southern Dallas District.
“My concern is, we still have so many dropped calls,” Atkins said.
The urgency for better wireless coverage increased as schools shifted to online learning with students ordered to stay at home.
Peterson said AT&T donated 10,000 wireless hot spots to the Dallas Independent School District.
“At my house, I have a landline. I have a hot spot, and the speeds are still slow,” Atkins said.
To fill in service gaps and provide new 5G service, AT&T is part of the installation of 800 new small cell towers around the city.
Peterson said two-thirds of the towers are planned north of I-30 to serve greater traffic there.
“I’ve got a problem with that,” Atkins said.
Peterson said the tower permitting process was slowed by coronavirus stay at home orders for workers at city hall. The goal was to complete all the towers within three years.
“When you look at what we've done in southern Dallas, we've accelerated a lot of investment because we knew that there was a critical need,” Peterson said.
Carolyn Arnold, who chairs the Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee, said members will continue watching AT&T’s progress.
“We will need to talk a little bit more about the challenges that we continue to hear about as it relates to getting, especially from DISD, connected,” Arnold said.
Some portions of AT&T’s coronavirus response offer ended Friday.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.