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Frontier: Only the Customers With the Fastest Internet Speeds Get the Emergency Broadband Benefit

Some financially challenged customers subscribed to legacy DSL from Frontier Communications are finding they cannot qualify for the Biden Administration’s emergency internet discount program because their internet service is too slow.

WHEC-TV’s Jennifer Lewke heard from one Rochester, N.Y., area Frontier customer frustrated to discover the phone company refused to accept their application.

The discount comes from the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a temporary program offering financially distressed consumers $50 off their monthly internet bill until the funding for the program runs out.

The roadblock comes from Frontier, which created its own rule that only customers with 25 Mbps or faster internet service subscribed to select tiers of service can qualify for the discount. That eliminates many of Frontier’s most loyal DSL customers that have stayed with the company for over a decade, despite often getting internet speeds less than 10 Mbps.

News10NBC:

John Derycke of Rochester relies on the internet for a lot.

“My [Frontier] plan is $54.99 and then they tack on a $6.99 infrastructure charge,” he told News10NBC.

[…]

“I went to the site to verify eligibility, I qualify and that was on May 11, I called Frontier and I spoke to Monique and she told me everything’s great we’re good to go,” Derycke said.

But when his bill came the next month, there was no credit.

He didn’t like what he was told when he called.

“After being put on hold for 20 minutes, I finally got back with the woman and she immediately said you don’t qualify because you have 24 MB and you need 25,” Derycke said.

He says he then asked to talk with a supervisor who basically told him the same thing.

Derycke says he searched the EBB page and information and couldn’t find a requirement that a customer have a plan with a certain level of megabits to qualify.

Based on that phone call with Frontier, Derycke would have to switch to the dominant internet provider in western New York, Charter Spectrum, just to get the $50 monthly credit. Based on current promotions, that would likely leave Derycke paying nothing for internet service until the EBB program runs out of money, likely by the end of this year. After his Spectrum new customer promotion expires, Derycke would likely have a higher internet bill than he started with from Frontier. 

A Frontier spokesperson told News10NBC Frontier might find a solution sooner than that:

“While a limited number of customers have a grandfathered Frontier product that is not eligible for the Emergency Broadband benefit, we are committed to transitioning these customers to comparable eligible offerings so they can receive the financial benefits. Frontier is working closing with our customer to resolve the situation.”

Such limitations on the EBB program do not come from the federal government. Internet providers voluntarily participate in the EBB program, and can set whatever restrictions, terms, and conditions they would like to qualify.

WHEC-TV in Rochester, N.Y. reports some Frontier customers with legacy DSL internet service may find themselves locked out of the Biden Administration’s internet benefit program. (3:20)

Des Moines Welcomes Fiber Competition for Mediacom and CenturyLink

The capital city of Iowa will soon get citywide access to gigabit service from a new competitor when MetroNet fires up its fiber to the home network beginning in the spring of 2022.

MetroNet, based in Indiana, has developed a lucrative business competing with some of America’s lesser known telecom companies, which have generally offered poorer service and slower speeds. When MetroNet cuts the ribbon on its gigabit fiber network, it will compete with usage-capped cable operator Mediacom, which Consumer Reports has bottom rated for at least a decade, and underfunded phone company CenturyLink, which has struggled to keep up with cable operator upgrades.

Des Moines, Iowa

According to the Des Moines Register, the fiber overbuilder will invest $70 million in its Des Moines network, and will be the third local competitor for internet, phone, and video service. The company traditionally undercuts competitors on regular pricing and at least matches their introductory pricing. In Des Moines, Mediacom offers new customers gigabit speed for $79 per month, which almost doubles to $139.99 when the promotion ends. CenturyLink’s limited fiber network starts at $65 a month, but also rises significantly after the promotional pricing ends. MetroNet will charge $60 a month for gigabit speed with a $100 debit card rebate, with prices increasing after the sixth month to $69.95 for the next 12 months. After the 18th month, regular pricing ($89.95) will apply.. MetroNet does not impose any data caps or usage based pricing.

MetroNet already offers service in Davenport, Ames, and Bettendorf, and has similar networks under construction in Ankeny, Urbandale, Gilbert, Grimes, Johnston, Clive, Le Claire, Nevada and Mason City — all in Iowa.

Google Fiber also has a nearby presence in West Des Moines. The city is constructing a fiber network that Google will license to provide its fiber internet service to residents in that area.

MetroNet received significant assistance from “red-tape-cutting” city officials, and the network will use existing rights-of-ways, with cables placed on poles and underground. MetroNet expects construction to take up to three years to complete, and residents can follow the company’s progress on a special website.

KCCI in Des Moines reports on MetroNet’s entry into Iowa’s largest city. (1:59)

New York Mandates $15 Low-Income Broadband Tier Available to All Who Qualify

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed affordable internet at the State of the State address in January 2021.

Low income New Yorkers will soon be able to subscribe to internet service at speeds starting at 25/10 Mbps for $15 a month, thanks to a new law passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To qualify, a consumer will need to show proof of active enrollment in any of the following programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Free or discounted school lunches
  • the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as “food stamps”
  • A senior or disability rent increase exemption

Almost every internet service provider of consequence in New York will be required to introduce a low income discounted internet program by June 2021. Consumers will be offered at least two options, depending on the technological capacity of a provider’s network:

  • $15/month basic service at speeds of at least 25/10 Mbps
  • $20/month enhanced service bringing download speeds up to 200 Mbps.

Rates will be fixed for at least five years, after which providers can increase prices based on the rate of inflation or by a modest percentage allowed by the state. In 2023, the New York State Public Service Commission will be permitted to require increases in the minimum download speeds offered.

The measure is part of New York’s effort to expand broadband availability and affordability across the state. Earlier broadband funding programs helped expand service into rural, unserved areas. This year, the legislature and the governor are targeting the digital divide between those who can and cannot afford internet access. The state’s largest cable operator, Charter Spectrum, already offers low-income customers its own Spectrum Internet Assist program, with similar qualifications. The company charges $14.99/month for 30/4 Mbps internet service, but excludes current customers from enrolling and may reject customers with past due balances owed in the past.

Gov. Cuomo announced the initiative at the State of the State Address in January. Critics called the plan “window dressing,” noting the state’s largest telecommunications companies including Charter Spectrum, Verizon, Altice, and Frontier already offer internet discount programs. Many also continue to question the governor’s contention that 98% of New Yorkers can now access high-speed internet and the overall cost and quality of service.

To assist residents in finding a suitable provider, the state launched an Affordable Internet website to help consumers sign up for discounted service. In some cases, additional discounts may be available.

The legislation also mandates the Public Service Commission to study and report back on internet accessibility and affordability by this time next year. The PSC will scrutinize how many New York homes and businesses still lack access to high-speed internet, as well as studying how reliable service providers are, what rates they charge, and the current state of competition in New York.

New York consumers can share their own experiences with internet service providers the state will use to guide potential future legislation.

WGRZ in Buffalo took a closer look at whether New York’s mandate for affordable internet service was a game changer or just window dressing. (2:33)

Congressman Clyburn Plans to Reintroduce $100 Billion Rural Broadband Expansion Fund Bill

Clyburn

Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) plans to reintroduce a bill offering $100 billion dollars to provide rural high speed internet service in unserved and underserved parts of the United States and to provide subsidies as needed to ensure that internet service is affordable.

The return of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will be welcomed by the House Rural Broadband Task Force and other groups appealing for rural broadband funding to resolve the pervasive lack of high-speed internet access in unprofitable service areas.

Clyburn notes that in his home state, one in ten rural South Carolinians lack access to suitable broadband service, despite years of more modest funding programs. His bill went nowhere in the 2020 session as part of the Democrats’ $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, dubbed the Moving Forward Act. With the election of President Joe Biden and the razor thin Democratic majority control of the U.S. Senate, some form of expanded infrastructure spending bill is likely to emerge in Congress this spring, which will include rural broadband funding.

Like last year’s bill, the 2021 version will likely include:

  • $80 billion in direct subsidy funds to build out high-speed rural internet access to homes and businesses.
  • $5 billion set aside for low interest broadband deployment loans
  • $5 billion for distance learning programs
  • Funding for Wi-Fi service in school buses
  • The creation of the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to monitor, promote, and assist rural communities and those economically disadvantaged in getting affordable high-speed internet service established in their community.
  • Funding for digital equity programs to train those not yet connected in how to use the internet.
  • A requirement that the FCC track and analyze national broadband pricing and ensure price transparency.

Clyburn’s 2020 bill also knocked down state barriers on building and expanding municipal broadband networks.

According to the FCC, 21 million Americans and 10 million school-age children do not have internet access. Low-income households are the least connected in America, and, not surprisingly, rural communities are the least served. What might surprise us all is that the data reveals a 75% correlation between median household income and broadband access In 2019, US Representative Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) created the Rural Broadband Task Force to close the digital divide, with the goal of all Americans having high-speed internet access by 2025. The digital era is to the 21st century what electricity was to the 20th, argues Clyburn. Bridging the digital divide is something we must address if we are going to reset the US economy for all. Featuring Jim Clyburn in conversation with Naomi Nix. (9:21)

T-Mobile Expands Wireless 4G Home Internet Service in MI, MN, NY, ND, OH, PA, SD, WV and WI

T-Mobile is widening its wireless home broadband pilot program to cover more than 20 million additional underserved and unserved households in 130 communities in parts of nine states.

“Home broadband has been broken for far too long, especially for those in rural areas, and it’s time that cable and telco ISPs have some competition,” said Dow Draper, T-Mobile executive vice president of Emerging Products. “We’ve already brought T-Mobile Home Internet access to millions of customers who have been underserved by the competition. But we’re just getting started. As we’ve seen in our first few months together with Sprint, our combined network will continue to unlock benefits for our customers, laying the groundwork to bring 5G to Home Internet soon.”

T-Mobile Home Internet customers currently pay $50 a month for unlimited wireless internet for their home or business, using T-Mobile’s existing 4G LTE network. To prevent cell tower saturation, T-Mobile is making the service available on a first-come, first-served basis, where coverage is eligible, based on equipment inventory and local network capacity. T-Mobile is also protecting its high-value mobile customer base by prioritizing mobile network traffic, so speeds may slow for home internet customers during times of peak cell tower usage.

The company adds that its 4G service will soon be joined by a 5G home internet service, which should increase speeds and capacity. The company claims:

  • The service is self-installed, so no installation visits or charges.
  • Taxes and fees included.
  • No annual service contracts.
  • No “introductory” price offers.
  • No hardware rental or sign-up fees.
  • No data caps, but network prioritization may affect speed during peak usage periods, and video streaming resolution may be limited based on available speed in your location.

Other Details:

  • Pricing: $50/month with AutoPay (price includes sales tax and regulatory fees “for qualifying accounts” whatever that means, and if you don’t AutoPay, the price is $5 higher.)
  • Credit approval required.
  • T-Mobile will supply an LTE Wi-Fi Gateway with the service, for in-home use only at the address on the account. The gateway must be returned if you cancel service or pay $207.

List of New Cities & Towns:

Michigan

  • Adrian
  • Alma
  • Alpena
  • Ann Arbor
  • Battle Creek
  • Bay City
  • Big Rapids
  • Cadillac
  • Coldwater
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn
  • Flint
  • Grand Rapids-Kentwood
  • Hillsdale
  • Holland
  • Jackson
  • Kalamazoo-Portage
  • Lansing-East Lansing
  • Ludington
  • Midland
  • Monroe
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Muskegon
  • Niles
  • Saginaw
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • South Bend-Mishawaka
  • Sturgis
  • Traverse City

Minnesota

  • Albert Lea
  • Alexandria
  • Austin
  • Bemidji
  • Brainerd
  • Duluth
  • Fairmont
  • Faribault-Northfield
  • Fergus Falls
  • Grand Rapids
  • Hutchinson
  • Mankato
  • Marshall
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
  • New Ulm
  • Owatonna
  • Red Wing
  • Rochester
  • St. Cloud
  • Willmar
  • Winona
  • Worthington

New York

  • Binghamton
  • Corning

North Dakota

  • Bismarck
  • Dickinson
  • Jamestown
  • Minot
  • Williston
  • Fargo
  • Grand Forks
  • Wahpeton

Ohio

  • Akron
  • Ashland
  • Ashtabula
  • Bucyrus-Galion
  • Cambridge
  • Canton-Massillon
  • Cleveland-Elyria
  • Coshocton
  • Defiance
  • Findlay
  • Fremont
  • Lima
  • Mansfield
  • Marion
  • New Philadelphia-Dover
  • Norwalk
  • Salem
  • Sandusky
  • Tiffin
  • Toledo
  • Wooster
  • Youngstown-Warren-Boardman

Pennsylvania

  • Altoona
  • Bloomsburg-Berwick
  • Chambersburg-Waynesboro
  • DuBois
  • East Stroudsburg
  • Erie
  • Gettysburg
  • Harrisburg-Carlisle
  • Huntingdon
  • Indiana
  • Johnstown
  • Lancaster
  • Lebanon
  • Lewisburg
  • Lewistown
  • Lock Haven
  • Meadville
  • New Castle
  • Oil City
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pottsville
  • Reading
  • Sayre
  • Scranton–Wilkes-Barre
  • Selinsgrove
  • Somerset
  • St. Marys
  • State College
  • Sunbury
  • Williamsport
  • York-Hanover
  • Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton

South Dakota

  • Aberdeen
  • Brookings
  • Huron
  • Mitchell
  • Pierre
  • Rapid City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Watertown
  • Yankton

West Virginia

  • Clarksburg
  • Cumberland
  • Elkins
  • Morgantown
  • Weirton-Steubenville
  • Wheeling

Wisconsin

  • Eau Claire
  • La Crosse-Onalaska
  • Menomonie
  • Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield

T-Mobile Home Internet: This company supplied video explains how the service works. (1:15)

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