News from the ITA

March 20, 2020

 

Illinois Telecom & Broadband Provider COVID-19 Information

Gov. Pritzker Issues Stay at Home Order

The ITA continues to monitor Illinois regulatory and state agency actions, guidance and recommendations as the state establishes policies to deal with COVID-19. We are working through these issues with the Governor's administration and we are in constant communication and coordination with our member companies and industry partners. The information we are providing is made possible through our work with the Illinois Rural Broadband Association, national associations and other state telecommunications associations. We will bring important information to you as it becomes available as you work to keep your communities and customers protected while also protecting employee safety during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Today, Governor Pritzker issued a stay at home order for Illinois. The Order is in place from 5:00 pm Saturday, March 21 through April 7. The Governor said all non-essential businesses must stop operating and directed everyone who can work from home to do so. The Governor also postponed the opening of schools to April 8.

 

All essential businesses and operations are encouraged to stay open. To the greatest extent feasible, Essential Businesses and Operations shall comply with social distancing requirements. The Executive Order defines a number of different essential businesses and operations. Internet, video and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, businesses infrastructure, communications and web-based services) are included in the Order under essential infrastructure. 

The Executive Order is attached to this email.

Governor Pritzker's administration has launched Coronavirus.illinois.gov with information for residents and small businesses.


Regulatory Actions

Moratorium on Customer Disconnections

The Illinois Commerce Commission approved an Emergency Interim Order at its March 18 Regular Open meeting prohibiting electric, natural gas, water and sewer public utilities from disconnecting customers for non-payment, sending notices of disconnection of utility service and requiring the suspension of late payment fees or penalties, on an interim basis, and until May 1, 2020 or until the Governor announces the end of the COVID-19 state of public health emergency. The Order also directs utilities to enact more flexible credit and collections procedures to ensure that customers remain connected to essential services.

The ICC also provided a notice to all telecommunications companies urging them to take immediate steps to cease disconnections for non-payment and to suspend the imposition of late payment fees or penalties, until May 1, 2020 or until the Governor announces the end of the COVID-19 state of public health emergency. In addition, the ICC recommended that telecommunications companies temporarily implement more flexible credit and collections procedures to ensure that customers remain connected to essential services when the emergency status ends. 

I have attached a copy of the Interim Emergency Order and the notice to telecommunications companies to this newsletter.


Connect Illinois Grant Deadline Extended to April 10

The Illinois Office of Broadband today announced they are extending the deadline for Connect Illinois broadband grant applications to April 10:

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and strain it has placed upon our communities and broadband service providers alike, the Illinois Office of Broadband is extending the application deadline for our current funding round until 5pm on Friday, April 10, 2020. We recognize the hard work many applicants have invested in this grant process, the urgent need for better broadband access throughout the state, and the mounting challenges impacting nearly every aspect of our daily lives. For these reasons, we want to ensure that applications underway have an opportunity to be completed – and that we help those eager to extend critical connectivity throughout un/underserved areas of the state make as much progress toward this end as soon as possible.

Matt Schmit, Director of the Office of Broadband, covered the extension to the grant application deadline and some other important information during today's webinar. He said that a revised and streamlined budget template will be available on the Connect Illinois website under a new Applicant Update tab. Schmit said it was okay to use either the original budget template or the new revised version. 


Customer Service Requiring Entry of Premises

I have received questions regarding customer service obligations and requests that may require an employee to enter the customer’s home. While the ICC understands the importance of protecting the health and welfare of employees, they are not providing specific guidance on this particular issue. Each company will need to use its best judgment to balance the needs of their communities and customers with the health and safety of employees.

Based on conversations an with various ITA member companies, through discussions with the Illinois Rural Broadband Association, and from information shared by other state telecommunications associations, I have compiled some practices and procedures that companies have adopted in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. I have attached a document with the information for your consideration and use as your company adopts and updates policies and procedures. Every company will have different variations in procedures and ultimately must address this concern in the best interest of their own employees, communities and customers. The situation changes daily and even hourly. Hopefully this resource will assist your company though the pandemic.

Federal, State and local departments of publics health continue to provide guidance on interpersonal interactions. The authority on public safety regarding COVID-19 is the Illinois Department of Public HealthA list of local health departments can also be found on the IDPH website.

State of Illinois Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Website

For more information about how you, your workplace, and community can prepare, please visit Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities.

For general questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email [email protected]

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is interested in learning about any supply chain issues or other issues companies are experiencing due to COVID-19. Please let me know if you encounter any issues. 

 


Governor Issues Executive Order on Telehealth

To ensure that residents are able to get as many of the health care services that they need, even from the safety of their own homes, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order March 19 significantly expanding telemedicine for both Medicaid and those who are privately insured. According to Gov. Pritzker, the order will allow more providers to get reimbursed for these services and allow patients more flexibility and safety in getting the medical guidance and care that they need.


Business Resource Links:

8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus (Harvard Business Review)

Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis (Harvard Business Review)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources (US Small Business Administration)

Schools, Workplaces & Community Locations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Illinois Telecommunications Association

312 S. 4th Street, Suite 100

           Springfield, IL 62701             

 (217) 572-1262

www.il-ita.com

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