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:

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.

Filed Under: covid-19, health, installs, self-installs, technicians
Companies: verizon


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 6:45am

    "On the one hand, this is terrible for folks whose access to an essential utility has been disrupted during the pandemic... At the same time, it's hard to fault Verizon for being cautious about its employees' lives."

    While both true, there aren't a great deal of broadband issues that absolutely require contact with other people, many can be fixed outside the end home. Also, if supermarket employees are expected to turn up for work because they're essential, I'd argue that people dealing with the only contact method some people have with their family within their home should be as well.

    On the flipside, I know for a fact that at least one company has been doing new installs near where I am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 6:50am

    Here in AZ, Cox stopped doing repairs inside customer premises a couple of weeks ago. At that time they would repair connections to the exterior of a house, but were not allowed to go inside. Not sure if that policy has changed much in the last week or so, but IMO it was a reasonable policy at the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 7:31am

    ANY FUCKING EXCUSE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    genghis_uk (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 7:41am

    Dear Brian,
    Please stop being an entitled idiot. Why is your installation more important than the health or our staff and everyone they come into contact with? We are operating at a time of a global pandemic and situations change on a day-to-day basis.

    You need it for school? Well, a lack of forward planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours. Did you miss the news for the last 2 months?

    Love and hugs,
    verizon xx

    p.s.Boomshanka (only Brits of a certain age will get this bit)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      Well, that's a damn disingenuous framing of the situation, isn't it?

      How about the entitled corporation doesn't sell service and schedule installs when the situation is hardly fresh, only to cancel it the next day? Verizon knows very well what they are doing. Forward planning, my ass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 7:44am

    Only time will tell

    This may be overly pessimistic, or maybe not, and we may have to wait a month or more, but it will be interesting to see if Verizon charges their regular monthly fees for postponed new installations, or postponed repairs where service was interrupted. The orders were placed, after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:00am

    We are continuing to do installs and trouble, but only to the outside of the home. We've been handing wires to customers through windows, doors, or anything to get service established, knowing we'll have to go back to get it corrected.

    Safe employees is job 1.

    Signed, rural ISP

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:06am

    Tech Visits

    I work in Network Operations for a Telcom in California. Out technicians are still doing repairs and installs for businesses as normal. For residential services, the techs are only doing outside work. Anything that the tech would need to go inside for is either left for the customer to install or needs to wait until after this ends.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Richard Bennett, 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:29am

    Bode lies! Drink! Driiiiiiink!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bodger (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:44am

    Eh, no big deal

    Barely worth noticing. AT&T stopped doing repairs and installs around here many years ago -- my neighborhood copper is vintage 1959. Calls about wires down and lying across the road get routed to the Philippines or India, get put on hold for an hour, and then are ignored. No kidding, in my neighborhood there are wires down from a falling tree in December.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Niveil, 9 Apr 2020 @ 9:32pm

    info

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dr evil, 10 Apr 2020 @ 1:31am

    sue the bastards

    being required to stay home, teach kids from home, communicate over the net, etc made internet a critical industry. by stopping, they are breaking the spirit, if not the intent, of the lockdowns. get em back to work, or take em over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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