With millions of employees, students and small business owners in Arizona relying on their home internet and cell phones to work and study, telecom companies are doing all they can to help in a number of ways.
Cox Communications, Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink have pledged not to disconnect anyone’s service or charge overusage fees over the next month or two.
They have announced a host of other steps as well. Among the expanded services: free faster speed bump-ups, thousands of free WiFi hotspots, added resources for low-income customers, distance learning tools, and more.
Cox Senior Vice President John Wolfe is one of many telecom leaders who have pledged to keep Arizona online.
“Cox wants to assure everyone that keeping the community connected is our priority. We have opened up our WiFi hotspot network across Arizona, making more than 2,500 hotspot accessible to residents in Phoenix and Southern Arizona,” said Wolfe, who is manager for the Southwest region.
Technicians are monitoring the network constantly to prevent disruptions, Wolfe said.
“Similar to our normal process, if we see the network reach or exceed utilization thresholds we will accelerate network upgrade plans in the impacted areas. This could include splitting nodes, pulling additional fiber, equipment swaps and/or core network changes, all of which add capacity to the area.”
Calling on government agencies to keep rules flexible
As Cox and other providers work 24-7 to keep connections from crashing, flexibility in rules and regulations are needed to keep Arizona ticking, company officials and business advocacy groups said.
They are calling on local, state and federal agencies to ensure regulations and permitting processes are loosened to allow them to move as quickly as possible to address issues that arise while hundreds of thousands of offices and businesses are closed.
Someone also needs to show up to open the door, they said.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has responded in a number of ways including encouraging telecom providers to take a pledge not to charge customers for over usage or terminate their service in the short term.
It announced Friday it is waiving certain rules to support telehealth and remote learning. The FCC also is granting some providers additional spectrum to support increased broadband usage.
Here are some of the free and expanded services offered here in Arizona for those affected by COVID-19.
Cox is offering free services, low-cost packages
Cox is taking a host of steps to help customers impacted by the virus, including offering 2,500 free WiFi spots to the general public in the Phoenix and Tucson regions.
The company also is increasing speeds at no additional cost, offering free technical support, and providing additional resources to its low-income service, Connect to Compete, for those in greatest need and students learning from home at this time.
Specifically, Cox has taken the following actions:
- Provide Connect2Compete internet product free for the first month and remote desktop support at no charge, so that families can load new applications they may need like online classroom support apps.
- Through May 15, Cox is boosting internet speeds for its Starter, StraightUp Internet and Connect2Compete customers to 50 Mbps. Essential package customers will be upgraded to 50 Mbps now.
- Offer new Starter internet customers the opportunity to connect for $19.99 per month with a temporary boost up to 50 Mbps download speeds, no annual contract or qualifications to help those impacted by COVID-19, like college students and seniors.
- To manage face-to-face contact, while still providing quick service, Cox is offering Cox Complete Care remote desktop support at no charge to residential customers, with remote helpdesk and assistance for loading new applications they may need to use during this time, like online classroom support applications and web conferencing services.
- An upgrade to Essential customers from 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps, originally planned for later in the year, is being deployed now.
For more information, go to: Cox COVID-19 response.
AT&T underwrites eLearning tool for teachers
AT&T President Toni Morales Broberg stated the company has a Network Disaster Recovery organization to ensure its physical network remains reliable.
Since the onset of COVID-19, AT&T has taken many steps to protect customers and employees including
- Keep its public Wi-Fi hotspots open for any American who needs them. Currently, it does not have a map for hotspots, but customers can search their device app store for a hotspot locator.
- All AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited internet data. Additionally, the company will continue to offer internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10 a month through the Access from AT&T program.
- Businesses, universities and schools can keep their teams and classrooms connected through conference calls and video conferencing with Cisco Webex Meetings with AT&T for 90-days, and seamlessly forward calls to both mobile and landline phones with AT&T IP Flexible Reach.
- AT&T is underwriting expenses for a “one-stop” resource center to support eLearning Days from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) available to all educators in schools to help them handle school closures and the increase in virtual learning due to COVID-19.
For AT&T’s latest updates, visit: about.att.com/pages/COVID-19.html
Verizon adding data for no additional charge
Verizon has implemented measures to keep customers on their cell phones:
- From March 25 through April 30, wireless consumer and small business customers will see an additional 15GB of data added to their plan for no additional charge. New consumer and business customers can also take advantage of this additional data.
- For Verizon consumer and small business postpaid unlimited customers, 15GB of 4G LTE hotspot data will be added to their current plan.
- For Verizon consumer prepaid and consumer and small business postpaid metered customers, 15GB will be added to their current standalone or shared data plan, which can be used for smartphone, hotspot or other connected device use.
- Standalone metered and unlimited Jetpack plans will also be provided an additional 15GB of 4G LTE data.
- There is no action needed as the data will automatically be added to your plan.
To check for COVID-19 updates, to to: www.verizon.com/standsready
CenturyLink ensuring educational institutions can stay connected at high speed
- CenturyLink is offering K-12 schools, colleges, universities, libraries, and state and local government agencies increased broadband speeds for free for 60 days at existing service locations with qualifying facilities.
- The company is also ensuring a healthy workforce. For the next 60 days, CenturyLink will provide up to 80 hours of emergency, excused, paid time off (PTO) to all U.S. employees to cover COVID-19 circumstances. The one-year waiting requirement for eligibility for CenturyLink’s U.S. Short-term Disability plan is being waived for all current U.S. employees.