Article

Ideas for Broadband Providers Coping with COVID-19 Challenges

Randy Sukow

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As with all walks of life, the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting broadband providers with unprecedented challenges. Millions of people nationwide are turning to work from home and distance learning for the first time. The level of internet traffic has surged and demand for home installation has increased. There are more requests for high-speed plans and greater demand for hardware.

In spite of the challenges, hundreds of telcos, broadband providers and industry associations – including many rural organizations  – have taken an FCC pledge to keep America connected.

NRTC Managed Services has several suggestions for NRTC-member broadband providers to do what it takes to keep their communities connected:

  • Whether entering homes with revised social distancing rules or implementing remote installation, refine your process to ensure smooth and timely installation.
  • If you offer free public Wi-Fi, let the community know where it is available. Suggest places where users can practice social distancing while using public Wi-Fi, such as from their vehicles.
  • Consider discounting higher-speed plans or offering them at no extra charge for the next two months. It will help people adjust to increased usage.
  • Suggest that users centrally locate their Wi-Fi routers and limit streaming services to maximize the broadband experience. At the same time, make them aware of your hardware and Wi-Fi solutions.
  • Help users fight cybersecurity threats by bundling solutions with their internet packages. Some are offering promotions, such as first month free.
  • Make COVID-19-related information available to your community. The NRTC Managed Services team has created a COVID-19 Communication Resources Page for members.

To learn about the resources page and other information, contact the team at managedservices@nrtc.coop.

Meanwhile, the government is chipping in with assistance where it can. The FCC today announced that it is allowing rural broadband providers and rate-of-return telephone companies to revise certain tariffs in order to waive consumer charges, such as installation fees, late payment penalties and early cancellation fees.

“We need to remove regulatory hurdles wherever we can to help consumers stay connected during this national emergency,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release. “I’m glad to enable these rate-of-return carriers to waive late payment fees and allow consumers to purchase and cancel DSL service without having to pay installation and termination fees. We hope that this relief will help keep rural Americans connected during the coronavirus pandemic.”

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