PROVIDER RESPONSES TO COVID-19

Synopsis of Telecommunications and Cable Television Provider Responses to COVID-19

(As of March 17, 2020)

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC)

Keep America Connected Pledge (https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-363033A1.pdf) issued March 13, 2020. Many providers operating in Michigan have signed on including AT&T Michigan, Frontier, Charter, Comcast, and several other Telecommunications providers. The pledge essentially states that for the next 60 days:

  1. Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;

  2. Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and

  3. Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them

AT&T

Is taking the following steps:

  • Not terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Waive any late payment fees that any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer may incur because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Keep our public Wi-Fi hotspots open for any American who needs them.

Click here to go to the AT&T response page.

Comcast

Is taking the following steps:

  • Xfinity WiFi Free For Everyone: Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots, and then launch a browser.

  • Pausing Our Data Plan: With so many people working and educating from home, we want our customers to access the internet without thinking about data plans. While the vast majority of our customers do not come close to using 1TB of data in a month, we are pausing our data plans for 60 days giving all customers Unlimited data for no additional charge.

  • No Disconnects or Late Fees: We will not disconnect a customer’s internet service or assess late fees if they contact us and let us know that they can’t pay their bills during this period. Our care teams will be available to offer flexible payment options and can help find other solutions.

  • Internet Essentials Free to New Customers: As announced yesterday, it’s even easier for low income families who live in a Comcast service area to sign-up for Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. New customers will receive 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month. Additionally, for all new and existing Internet Essentials customers, the speed of the program’s Internet service was increased to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. That increase will go into effect for no additional fee and it will become the new base speed for the program going forward.

  • News, Information and Educational Content on X1 and Flex:For those with school-age students at home, we’ve created new educational collections for all grade levels in partnership with Common Sense Media. Just say “education” into your X1 or Flex voice remote. To help keep customers informed, we also have created a collection of the most current news and information on Coronavirus. Just say “Coronavirus” into your X1 or Flex voice remote.

  • 24x7 Network Monitoring: Underpinning all of these efforts, Comcast’s technology and engineering teams will continue to work tirelessly to support our network operations. We engineer our network capacity to handle spikes and shifts in usage patterns, and continuously test, monitor and enhance our systems and network to ensure they are ready to support customer usage. Our engineers and technicians staff our network operations centers 24/7 to ensure network performance and reliability. We are monitoring network usage.

Click here to go to the Comcast response page.

Charter

Beginning Monday, March 16, Charter commits to the following for 60 days:

  • Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395.

  • Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

  • Charter will partner with school districts to ensure local communities are aware of these tools to help students learn remotely.

  • Charter will open its Wi-Fi hotspots across our footprint for public use where available.

  • Spectrum does not have data caps or hidden fees.

Click here to go to the Charter response page.

Telecommunications Association of Michigan (TAM)

As of March 16, 2020 19 members have signed the FCC “Keep America Connected” pledge. TAM has a master list of all of their members pledging, and as more members agree to the pledge, the list will be updated. The list can be found at: www.telecommich.org/keeping-americans-connected. The current providers that have pledged are as follows:

  • Agri-Valley Communications, Baraga Telephone Company, Blanchard Telephone Company, Bloomingdale Communications, CenturyLink, D&P Communications, Hiawatha Telephone Company, Lennon Telephone Company, Midway Telephone Company, Ontonagon County Telephone Company, Peninsula Fiber Network, Pigeon Telephone Company, Sand Creek Telephone Company, Springport Telephone Company, TDS Telecom, Thumb Cellular, TelNet Worldwide, Winn Telecom, and Winn Telephone Company

Hamilton Relay

Provides Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) in Michigan. TRS is a service for the deaf, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing, etc. Hamilton Relay has continued to keep MPSC Staff informed of their COVID-19 responses, as well as any issues that they are encountering. Hamilton Relay has also been in communication with the FCC. According to the most recent update from Hamilton Relay, while they were staffed according to projected call volumes, the volumes far outpaced paced what was anticipated. They are also working on plans for CAs to work from home, and are working with the FCC on this plan. However, at this time, no definitive CAs working from home plan has been implemented at this time

T-Mobile

Has also agreed to the Keep America Connected pledge. In addition to the pledge, the company has informed staff that they will be doing the following:

  • As of March 13, all current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers who have plans with data will have unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days (excluding roaming).

  • Soon T-Mobile will provide T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot/tethering service for the next 60 days.

  • T-Mobile is working with our Lifeline partners to provide customers free extra data up to 5GB of data per month for the next 60 days.

  • T-Mobile is also increasing the data allowance, free of charge, to schools and students using our EmpowerED digital learning programs to ensure each participant has access to at least 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.

  • Additionally, T-Mobile is offering free international calling for all current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers to Level 3 impacted countries.

Click here to see the T-Mobile response page.

MPSC Staff

MPSC continues to have staff in the office assisting telecommunications and video/cable complaint calls. It is important that those customers who may have service issues (especially outage issues) are having their complaints handled and sent to the providers for resolution… especially for 9-1-1, 2-1-1, and other access needs such as for medical services.

Telecommunications and Video/Cable Provider Staffing

At this time, we are not aware of any staffing concerns or network concerns by providers. Providers have informed MPSC Staff that they are continuously monitoring the situation and holding internal meetings. However, at this time, no providers have expressed concerns regarding network usage or concerns responding to service issues.