Internet providers offer assistance during call for social distancing

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -- Several internet providers to North Dakota residence are offering assistance or relief to support families in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Companies include Sparklight, DRN and BEK.

Sparklight announced Thursday a 15 Mbps internet plan for $10 per month is available for the next 60 days to help low income families and those most impacted from coronavirus challenges, such as seniors and college students. No documentation will be required to sign up for this plan.

Earlier this week, the company opened free WiFi hotspots in Sparklight local office parking lots across its footprint for public use during the crisis in order to keep individuals and communities connected. The company will work to open additional WiFi hotspots in other public areas in the coming days and weeks.

Sparklight customers in the Greater Fargo-Moorhead area have access to ‘unlimited data’ at all times, on all plans. Beginning March 13, 2020, Sparklight also committed to waiving late fees and deferring payments for its customers for 60 days.

The company also stands ready to support critical infrastructure with speed upgrades and other requests to ensure ongoing and reliable service for local educators and health care professionals, including customers under federal rural healthcare and E-rate programs.

“A fast and reliable internet connection has never been more important for staying in touch with family, friends, school and work,” said Julie Laulis, President and CEO of Sparklight. “Being a local connectivity provider means we are there for our communities in difficult times like these, and we remain committed to keeping our customers connected and supporting them through this crisis.”

DRN, a southeastern North Dakota telecommunications provider, serves an area already hard hit by the recent struggling farm economy.
In addition to a free month of Internet and telephone service for cooperative members, DRN is participating in the FCC’s Keep American Connected Pledge to not disconnect phone or broadband service, and to waive any late fees associated with non-payment during this time to any residential and small business customers.

“We, as a telecommunication cooperative, felt the need to help our friends and neighbors out during this weak farm economy and the global health crisis,” said Ralph Neu, DRN board president.” DRN responded with ‘Concern for the Community,’ a cooperative principal in the face of the virus pandemic and slow economy. The cooperative is also working with schools and businesses to make the transition to work and learn from home as smooth as possible. “Offering a free month of Internet and phone service is our response to relieve some of the financial burden to our members,” said DRN CEO/GM Kent Schimke.

Members will notice a credit on their April 2020 statements. Cooperative members will receive $22.50 credit for their landline telephone and depending upon their Internet service level agreement, will be credited $37.04 to $149.99. Separate service items including Caller ID, TV service, long distance charges, fees and taxes will still apply.

BEK Communications announced Wednesday it will double customer internet speeds and provide free internet for four months to those in need. With internet services lacking in rural areas, BEK Communications is making it a goal to give every student access.

Customers can call Sparklight at 877-692-2253 for more information.

Customers with questions or concerns regarding their DRN telephone or broadband service, may call 344-5000