Georgia Reps. Work for Increased Rural Broadband During COVID Outbreak

Cindy Morley

Friday, April 17th, 2020

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Several members of the Georgia delegation are teaming up in a bi-partisan effort to increase broadband access to residents in rural parts of the state. Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA-09), Austin Scott (R-GA-08), and Sanford Bishop (D-GA-02) sent a letter to officials at Windstream late last week stressing the importance of increased broadband access during this unprecedented time in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many people across Georgia are working from home during the Shelter-In-Place and students are taking part in on-line learning as Governor Brian Kemp ordered school buildings closed for the remainder of this school year.

“As representatives of thousands of Windstream customers, we write today regarding the impact coronavirus has had on broadband access in rural communities throughout Georgia,” the three wrote. “In the past, we have written to you regarding the inadequate internet service our constituents are receiving despite your company’s acceptance of federal dollars to expand access. While we know Windstream has upgraded some areas that are more populated and less rural, many of our constituents continue to struggle with poor broadband speeds.”

According to information from the Georgia Congressman, Windstream customers across Georgia have consistently struggled to gain access to reliable broadband speeds for several years. Congress has taken significant steps toward expanding rural broadband infrastructure in recent years, including securing federal funding to providers in rural areas. However, some carriers – like Windstream – have failed to provide adequate broadband speeds to consumers despite collecting taxpayer dollars, the Congressmen said. As this pandemic is forcing more and more Georgians to rely on the internet, access to reliable broadband is more critical than ever before.

“Due to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of Georgians are being forced to work, learn, and recreate from home. This undoubtedly has increased the strain on the networks your consumers depend upon. Over the past several years, we have heard complaints of a network that is overburdened and cannot keep up during peak use. Even though we have been calling for increased internet access in rural areas for years, this moment in time shows that Windstream has yet to meet the mark,” the letter stated.

In the letter, the three posed a list of questions for Windstream officials, including:

● What specific steps has Windstream taken to respond to the increase in broadband usage in Georgia due to the coronavirus pandemic?

● Does Windstream’s plan to address increased usage due to the pandemic include upgrades for consumers living in more rural areas?

● Are you charging consumers for equipment upgrades that are necessary to meet broadband access demands during this time?

● Which of Windstream’s service areas in Georgia have been upgraded in response to the coronavirus outbreak?

● How is Windstream responding to complaints by consumers during this time? What is the time frame in which consumers experiencing accessibility issues can expect a response from your company?

● Has Windstream implemented any new policies or procedures to assist those who have been furloughed or laid-off as a result of COVID-19 and are struggling to pay their bills?