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Report for America is a national service program coordinated by The GroundTruth Project.The inivitiative is made possible in rural Appalachia with support from the Galloway Family Foundation.

Internet Providers Pledge Not to Interrupt Service During Pandemic

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West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
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Internet providers, including some serving West Virginia, are signing a 60-day pledge with the Federal Communications Commission to continue serving customers affected by state and federal coronavirus precautions. 

Some companies are voluntarily pledging not to suspend internet service to customers who miss payments for the next two months, if those customers can prove it’s due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

 
By pledging, these providers also are agreeing to waive associated late payments for eligible residential customers and small business. 

 
The start date for the participating providers to begin implementing these promises will vary, according to the press release. In West Virginia, groups like Charter (Spectrum)Comcast (Xfinity)Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) and Altice USA (Suddenlink) already have announced coronavirus-related plans. 

 
The FCC posted a full list of providers that signed the pledge nationwide on Friday, March 13, also including Frontier and AT&T. The FCC posted an update to that list on Monday. 

 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week they are recommending gatherings of no more than 10 people to try and prevent disease spread, prompting many employers to ask employees to work from home. West Virginia schools also closed on Monday in response to the pandemic and Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency spanning all 55 counties.  

 
Teachers have until Thursday, March 19, to share alternative instruction plans with students, according to the state Department of Education.  

 
Even with the commitment from the internet providers, not all students in West Virginia have reliable access to broadband. Officials say some lessons will be available online, while some county boards of education will allow pencil and paper packets. The plans are supposed to take students through March 27, before further review by the state.  

 
The Public Service Commission last week called on water utilities that are regulated by the state to similarly continue services to all West Virginians. 

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.


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