While the nation continues to deal with social distancing, remote working and learning and, in some cases, self-quarantining due to COVID-19, access to the outside world through high-speed internet has become more crucial than ever.
In response, one Missouri electric cooperative’s broadband unit has ramped up support services for its more than 19,000 subscribers.
Co-Mo Connect: Powered by Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Tipton, Missouri, has made a number of safety-related operational changes at its electric distribution and broadband units to protect employees, members and subscribers, including:
Co-Mo Connect has taken a number of additional steps to help broadband subscribers deal with social distancing, including temporarily bumping up customers’ connection speeds to the next tier—either 250 Mbps or 1 Gbps—free of charge to help with remote working and schooling.
“We’ve also set up two free Wi-Fi hot spots in each of the parking lots at our two office locations to help community members—both subscribers and non-subscribers—who need to connect to the internet for classwork, downloads, updates or streaming,” Co-Mo Connect CEO Aaron Bradshaw said.
On the TV side, Co-Mo Connect has rolled out free previews and trials for subscribers in a joint effort with various networks.
“We also introduced a no-shutoff policy from March through mid-May for all customers, both electric and broadband,” Bradshaw said. “During this time, we also will not charge any late fees.”
The broadband unit continues to sign up new subscribers.
“Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a 104 percent growth spike in broadband connection requests when compared to last year,” Bradshaw said.
The new policies have resonated with customers. A number of subscribers contacted Co-Mo Connect to express their appreciation.
One subscriber noted, “I’m working from home and homeschooling a child. We also have our everyday internet usage with streaming videos and such. I always have great, fast internet with Co-Mo Connect. But we really appreciate the upgrade speed for free that Co-Mo Connect is doing for all customers to help during this COVID-19 craziness! When other internet providers get slower, Co-Mo boosts our speed to get faster for free, and steps up to help customers during this difficult time.”
Another customer said, “I am an at-risk high school teacher who has several seniors working on credit recovery courses online to regain credits they lost during their high school careers. I am online several times a day monitoring their progress and communicating with them through our online credit recovery program. Our internet helps us do that easily with no interruptions. My daughter will also be finishing her spring semester at University of Central Missouri online as well. We’re glad we have Co-Mo’s broadband internet where we live. We couldn’t do all of this without (Co-Mo Connect).”
In another instance, Co-Mo Connect was able to help a subscriber with an internet service issue that required installation of new equipment in a household positive for COVID-19.
“After Co-Mo Connect's technical support team tried to remotely troubleshoot the problem, it became clear that the subscriber would need a new optical network terminal (ONT),” explained Co-Mo Connect Marketing Coordinator Gene McCoy. “Unfortunately, someone in her home had recently tested positive for COVID-19. For many companies, that would have been the end of the conversation. Her issues would have to wait until her home was clear of the virus even though she was in desperate need of internet service. But we already had a plan in place for this very contingency.
“One of our representatives was able to leave a new ONT on her doorstep along with a simple self-installation pamphlet. Without exposing our team, we were able to help her through the set-up, and she now has internet service again during a very tough time for her family. She was so grateful for the team's effort that she nearly broke down in tears on the phone."
Co-Mo Connect stays engaged with its members and subscribers through a range of communication channels, including social media, messaging through its TV service, email, telephone and its website.
“As a cooperative, we exist to improve the lives of those in the region we serve,” Bradshaw said. “Focusing on member engagement is paramount to our success in this mission of service—especially at a time like this. We want each member and subscriber to know that they have a voice. And we want them to know that their voice is vital to the continual improvement of the services we offer.”
Published June 1, 2020, in CFC Solutions News Bulletin.