AT the frontlines of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic are the valiant health workers who risk their lives to treat patients. In the streets are police and military personnel who man the checkpoints while government and NGO workers distribute aid to hard-hit communities.
There is another group of frontliners, often unnoticed, who keep people connected to work or school, their family and friends here and around the world during these times of community quarantine and social distancing: the field personnel of telecommunications firms.
They are the tower riggers and field engineers who continue to monitor and repair cellular towers or install or repair fixed broadband links to ensure continuous connectivity.
The work-from-home scheme is not an option for them. They have to be at the field.
“Our priority is to maintain the uninterrupted signal and fast connection especially now that most employees are working from home. Whenever there are concerns regarding slow connectivity and outages, we immediately respond to them,” said Alberto Ambil, network field services engineer for PLDT wireless arm, Smart Communications Inc.
“The alarming pandemic reports serve as reminders that we must stay healthy so that we can properly perform our daily tasks. We are grateful that the company supports us by providing us vitamins, protective gear and hazard pay,” Kevin Ng, another engineer, said.
The risks are greater for tower rigger Ramel Miñoza, whose job involves climbing high towers to install equipment, rain or shine.
Mindful of these risks, the network teams of PLDT and Smart are carefully controlling the movements of their field personnel. Outdoor activities are being focused on key facilities while direct contact with customers and other people is being limited. Field personnel are also provided personal protective gear.
To help its customers and the public keep connected, PLDT has provided a speed boost to its Fibr broadband customers while Smart has increased the data packages of its postpaid and prepaid subscribers.
The two companies have also provided free access to select government sites, such as the official websites of the Department of Health, Philippine Information Agency and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council; free calls to key government agency hotlines such as the COVID-19 hotline 1555; free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country; eLoad discounts on the Smart Online Store and payment extension for all PLDT, Smart and Sun postpaid subscribers.