Liberty Latin America — a leading telecommunications company operating in over 20 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean — now owns all of AT&T's customer accounts in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with the company stating that there will be no changes to the current service as prices and fees, billing and mobile usage outside Puerto Rico will remain the same. The company, however, has promised better service, and over the past few months has been installing underground cables in the USVI to that end.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice on Oct. 23 said that because Liberty and AT&T were two of the three largest wireline providers in Puerto Rico, the sale of AT&T's assets on the island "would leave many customers with only one alternative and others with no competitive choice at all, likely resulting in increased prices and lower-quality services for enterprise customers across Puerto Rico." Based on this argument, the U.S. D.O.J.'s Antitrust Division on Oct. 23 filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed merger.
D.O.J. also proposed a settlement that would satisfy its concerns and allow the Oct. 31 acquisition to go through: Liberty had to sell its fiber-based Columbus network in the metro San Juan area to WorldNet, another Puerto Rico telecommunications firm. Liberty had purchased the Columbus network as part of its purchase of Cable & Wireless four years ago, according to Fierce Telecom.
Liberty agreed to the D.O.J.'s demands, and on Oct. 27, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave Liberty and AT&T approval to move forward with the sale. This case, however, did not affect the U.S. Virgin Islands portion of the acquisition.
“The statement from the U.S. Department of Justice is about a consent judgement that was filed on October 23, 2020 establishing a condition for clearing Liberty Latin America’s acquisition of AT&T’s operations in Puerto Rico and USVI," said Liberty in a statement issued to the Consortium Friday. "The agency required that Liberty Communications of Puerto Rico (LCPR) divest certain assets in our B2B fiber-based wireline business in Puerto Rico. This divestiture is not related to any assets in USVI. The judgement was remedied by the parties and the DOJ approved the transaction."
Following the FFC's clearance on Oct. 27, Liberty said, "Today, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission gave Liberty Latin America the go-ahead to complete the acquisition of AT&T's wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with no conditions, and concluded that the transaction serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Furthermore, they said that the transaction is likely to result in a stronger competitor and may result in increased and enhanced services to consumers. With this approval, we successfully completed another step in the regulatory process and will close the transaction on October 31, 2020."
On its USVI operations, Liberty stated, "USVI and Puerto Rico have had a long-standing relationship in terms of tourism, commerce, health services and humanitarian aid. And, while we realize that we are a new company in the USVI, I want to reassure our new USVI customers that they will get the same kind of quality mobile service, attention and customer experience that they are used to. The expertise and experience of AT&T’s employees and management team, combined with our own, will ensure that we can deliver on that promise."
The company said USVI customers traveling to the mainland U.S. will continue using their service as they do today, and their mobile numbers will not change.
"This transaction will benefit Liberty and AT&T customers by uniting the fastest wireless network with the fastest fixed network in Puerto Rico and will help build a more robust and resilient communications infrastructure for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Liberty said.
For current AT&T customers in Puerto Rico and USVI, nothing will change in your service. Prices and fees, billing, and mobile usage outside of Puerto Rico will remain the same. AT&T customer service contacts remain the same and will be handled by representatives in Puerto Rico. The network, engineers, service personnel, and maintenance and quality control personnel have all been maintained.