FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTIN, Texas – As the United States and Texas leaders grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Telephone Association and the state’s telecommunications industry are answering the call to keep Texans and Americans connected.
“As we battle the coronavirus, nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our employees and our communities,’’ said Russell “Rusty” Moore, general manager and chief operating officer of BBT and president of the TTA Board of Directors. “With schools, state and local offices closed and millions of employees working from home to slow the spread of COVID-19, reliable telecommunications services and high-speed broadband networks are more important than ever to enable distance learning, online commerce, emergency response and telemedicine.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on March 13 launched an initiative asking broadband providers and telecommunications companies to take the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.” The 30-member TTA has endorsed the pledge and several telecommunications companies across the state have signed on and committed to waive late fees any residential or small business customers incur because of economic circumstances related to the coronavirus for the next 60 days.
In addition, the companies pledged not to terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of an inability to pay their bills because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus. They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them.
In spite of an extraordinary demand on networks, TTA member companies are monitoring and managing network performance around-the-clock and are prepared to respond quickly to serve customers.
At the same time, TTA member companies are assisting local communities. A few initiatives include:
- Working with local school districts to identify and prioritize connections for households with students, with some offering discounted or free services.
- Offering free and discounted Internet access to college students to support online learning.
- Installing new Wi-Fi hotspots to extend connectivity to local communities and support online education.
- Suspending data usage limits or in some cases increasing speeds for some fiber customers.
- Offering Lifeline service discounts, which helps make communications services more affordable to low income customers.
- Donating to community food banks or other organizations.
- Offering extended service hours, paying employees overtime and retaining contractors to nimbly handle an unprecedented volume of service and installation calls.
- Implementing precautions on hygiene and sanitation practices to limit the spread of the coronavirus based on the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; offering drive-through, curbside, or online; and voice customer service; encouraging employees to work from home; and providing cleaning supplies and protective equipment to employees working in the field.
“Demand on our networks has continued to grow and we are seeing more and more Texans working and learning at home,’’ Moore said. “We are confident that our networks will continue to perform and keep Texans connected.’’
About the Texas Telephone Association
The Texas Telephone Association, founded in 1905, represents the telecommunications companies that are driving economic development and innovation to benefit consumers, business, schools and hospitals across Texas. With a diverse membership ranging from publicly traded corporations to small privately-owned businesses and cooperatives, TTA is dedicated to advancing and enhancing the telecommunications industry in Texas. For more information, visit www.tta.org.