By Cristy Boucher
We understand our clients have a lot on their minds during the COVID-19 pandemic both personally and professionally as we navigate shelter-in-place orders and self-quarantine. We realize the impact this virus has at your communities, rent delinquency and potential mortgage deferments, as well as your leasing operations and on-site coordination/office closures within your teams.
RealtyCom continues to advocate and speak with Service Providers during this uncertain time, educate ourselves on pain points for our clients and remain solution-oriented for any broadband issues. To that end, these past weeks we’ve participated in every one of the NMHC webinars, spoke with leaders at each of the major telecom companies, participated in an industry roundtable meeting with Owners and peers, and analyzed all our client’s bulk agreements to ensure adequate Internet speeds are being delivered to your residents. We also support the NMHC in their efforts to maintain housing availability and security via their #ReliefStartsAtHome campaign to ask Congress for further relief for renters and property Owners from COVID-19.
More than ever before broadband availability and connectivity is needed for telecommuters, students, and general entertainment. As a general industry update, in mid-March the FCC chairman Ajit Pai asked Service Providers to opt in to the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” which includes:
(1) “not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
(2) “waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
(3) “open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.”
Some providers have expanded even further on these guidelines to ensure your communities are connected, while respecting social distancing guidelines. A brief update on some of the largest providers in our client’s footprints is below, with each of these providers opting into the FCC recommendations above.
AT&T has added its wireline and wireless internet customers would receive unlimited data with no caps or throttling. Prior to the pandemic, AT&T sent notices to many of our clients regarding amending their contract. We have since discussed and AT&T agreed on an indefinite extension on their offer for clients to switch to their new Prime One revenue plan. We will continue to monitor their deployment of AT&T TV and phase-out of their U-verse television service, and how those changes will impact your revenue payments. We will be proactively reaching out to those clients we feel it would be advantageous to amend their existing contracts as we evaluate the revenue trends.
Comcast is the largest broadband provider in the country and in addition to opening their free Xfinity Wi-Fi nationwide they are also providing unlimited data to their customers at no extra charge, and 60 days of free basic internet service to new customers. They have increased their Internet Essentials Internet speed from 12 Mbps to 25 Mbps nationwide. Internet Essentials offers low-income families, veterans and people with disabilities a $10-per-month internet plan and the option to purchase a computer for $150.
Cox continues to install their pre-enabled Internet service called “Quick Connect”, which conforms with social distancing guidelines since equipment is installed before a new resident moves in. They are expanding use of virtual tools to aid their customers in their homes without having to access apartments, and they continue to extend discounted equipment and services to enable school-aged children to complete their studies at home. In addition, Cox has increased bandwidth on its lower intenet tiers including Starter, StraightUpInternet and Connect2Compete packages to a minimum of 50Mbps.
Charter is also offering a promotional 60-days of free wireline and wireless internet service for new customers with K-12 students or college students. Like Comcast and AT&T, it’s also offering its Wi-Fi hot spots for free to the public. Additionally, Charter offers a seasonal service where you can augment services/pricing for up to 9 months without penalty.
In terms of new agreements, the providers seem motivated to continue putting in place new marketing and access agreements, with flexibility to sign/notarize/record easements electronically. Most providers continue with their planned construction and build out of new service, respecting social distancing guidelines and leasing office closures. RealtyCom is closely monitoring payment timelines as we know the income will be useful during this time for our clients. While we expect short-term impacts to your recurring revenue share payments, we support and commend the decision to keep customers and residents online during this difficult time.
If you have any questions or need customized help during this time, please reach out to your Client Account Manager or our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.