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Coronavirus Roundup: Frontier Declares Bankruptcy, Protect Against Broadband Disconnections, Seniors and Telemedicine

David Jelke

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Frontier file photo of CEO Bernie Han

The landline internet service provider Frontier Communications has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to CNBC.

This is part of the corporation’s move to restructure itself in order to cut more than $10 billion in debt.

“We are undertaking a proactive and strategic process with the support of our Bondholders to reduce our debt by over $10 billion on an expedited basis. We are pleased that constructive engagement with our Bondholders over many months has resulted in a comprehensive recapitalization and restructuring," said Robert Schriesheim, chairman of the company board’s finance committee, in a statement.

"We do not expect to experience any interruption in providing services to our customers,” he added.

Frontier CEO Bernie Han spoke about the move in light of the coronavirus outbreak:

“Our team is focused on ensuring the health and safety of our employees and customers. The services we provide to our customers keeps them connected, safe and informed, and I would like to thank our team for their continued dedication, especially in light of the current environment.”

Nearly 1,000 consumer groups call for protection against shutoffs in new stimulus bill

Eight-hundred and thirty groups composed of utility justice, environmental, and faith groups signed and sent a letter to Washington calling on Congress to include a provision in the next coronavirus stimulus bill that would prohibit shutoffs on water, electricity, and broadband on Monday, according to Free Press.

The letter also calls for funds to address the underlying issues of race and socio-economic status that they said perpetuate shutoffs and unequal broadband access. Measures suggested taking in the letter include that Congress improve the Lifeline program, which makes communications programs more affordable for low-income consumers.

The group reports that Congress failed to provide “any utility-service protections in earlier coronavirus-relief packages” despite public support.

“Unfortunately, millions of families each year are cut off from their utility services, and the coronavirus emergency exacerbates and highlights the urgency of these chronic issues,” the letter reads. “These utility services must be retained to ensure basic family survival and to fight the health pandemic at ground zero.”

Reps. Schakowsky and King propose ACCESS Act

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee on Friday introduced the Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act , with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and others.

The legislation would protect older, vulnerable populations from risking exposure to coronavirus by increasing their access to remote health care and their ability to connect with loved ones online.

Last month, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Bob Casey, D-Penn., introduced the bill in the Senate.

According to a summary by the sponsors, the ACCESS Act would:

  • Authorize an emergency supplemental appropriation of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Telehealth Resource Center to assist nursing facilities receiving funding through Medicare or Medicaid in expanding their use of telehealth services;
  • Require the Secretary of HHS to share recommendations on additional ways to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities and temporarily designated nursing facilities during the pandemic; and
  • Establish a grant program authorizing HHS to award nursing facilities grants to nursing facilities to enable residents to participate in “virtual visits” with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.

“We are introducing the bipartisan ACCESS Act to make sure all nursing home residents can take advantage of telehealth services and keep in close contact with their families and other loved ones,” said Schakowsky. “Though physical distancing is critical, it does not have to result in damaging social isolation.”

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