Verizon Quietly Stops Doing Broadband Installs, Repairs During COVID-19
from the damned-if-you-do... dept
So far the broadband industry has done a notably good job keeping their networks running during the COVID-19 quarantine. That said, some ISPs have been monumentally terrible when it comes to protecting the safety of their employees and the communities they serve.
Charter Spectrum, for example, spent precious weeks refusing to let non-essential employees work at home, even in cases where positive tests had been discovered at the company’s offices. And instead of giving its field technicians the necessary safety gear and hazard pay, Charter execs somehow decided it would be a good idea to give these frightened employees $25 gift certificates to closed restaurants.
Other companies like Comcast have handled the problem far better, providing hazard pay and work-at-home opportunities where possible. As has Verizon, which this week took things one step further by quietly ceasing most new broadband installs and repairs. Users who had tech visits scheduled say they’ve been cancelled as the company reins in operations:
So I literally purchase internet yesterday. The technician is scheduled to come tomorrow, I wake up today with a message that they can?t come out anymore. So I?m fooled into signing up and then don?t get my internet that I need for school. Great Verizon, can?t wait to cancel!
— Brian Fuentes (@Romafankid) April 6, 2020
On the one hand, this is terrible for folks whose access to an essential utility has been disrupted during the pandemic. The broadband industry has long fought tooth and nail against broadband being classified as a utility in a bid to eliminate regulations and avoid price controls. That broadband is an essential utility and there’s very real dangers in monopolizing it is a conversation big ISPs (and their countless policy and think tank advocates) don’t really want to have.
At the same time, it’s hard to fault Verizon for being cautious about its employees’ lives. I’ve spent countless hours talking with field techs who already often risk their health stumbling through hoarding situations and other risks, and that’s during more normal times. Given the 6′ CDC distancing requirements may be a bit of a joke (some data suggests 20 feet outdoors and 27 feet indoors), it’s hard to fault anybody (especially in NYC right now) not eager to spend an hour in confined spaces with a stranger.
That said, based on this Verge report, it’s pretty clear Verizon could do a better job making its policies clearer. You apparently can still sometimes get a self-install, and sometimes get “future appointment priority? if you reschedule a tech visit, but who qualifies for what and how long you’ll wait to get your broadband line installed or repaired isn’t entirely clear. That said, it’s an historic situation with no obvious path forward and no easy answers, especially for employees not keen on putting their lives at risk so the local telecom monopoly can make a buck.