ASHEBORO NC – Spectrum customers are speaking out after they say the internet provider is giving them the run around and taking months to apply a federal discount they have been approved for.
On December 27th, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed into law and created the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund with $3.2 billion in funding The FCC established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program), so that eligible low-income households could apply and receive a discount off the cost of broadband internet service.
The program provides:
- Up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals
- Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
- A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
Applicants complete an application through the Lifeline National Verifier system. If approved customers take the information from their approval to their internet provider who then verifies the approval and applies the discount. It’s that last step where customers are saying Spectrum is dropping the ball.
“I was approved for the EBB discount on June 19th, and I took that approval to Spectrum the same day” said a Spectrum customer who wished to remain unnamed. “After chatting online 6 times, 3 phone calls, and a visit to the local Spectrum office I got my first discount on Aug 8th.” The customer shared chat logs and emails with Randolph News Now to verify his story. One chat log showed where a Spectrum customer service representative said that the EBB discount would be backdated to when the customer first applied with Spectrum as soon as they finished processing the application. However statements show the credit was never backdated. “Just in case that wasn’t enough of a headache, they applied my credit the first time on Aug 4th, but when I looked at my bill for the next month on Sept 4th the credit wasn’t there. A spectrum representative told me it wouldn’t be applied until Spet 30th, I don’t get it, it’s a monthly credit, and they are asking me to pay the full amount of the bill every month?”
Despite not wanting to use their name we felt it was important to share this customer’s experience because it proved to be emblematic of what we were hearing from other Spectrum customers. Messages we received after first posting about this issue on Facebook fit into one of three categories.
- Spectrum taking months to process approved applicants
- Customers being told the credit would backdate but not getting a back-dated credit
- The EBB discount not being applied each month or being applied in a way where customers are being asked to pay the full bill.
That delay in Spectrum verifying applications is important because the EBB Program will conclude when the fund is depleted or six months after the end of the public health emergency declaration. In total we were contacted by ten spectrum customers with similar issues. A spokesman for Charter Communications (the parent company of Spectrum) offered to look into individual cases to see what was going on and sent us the the following statement by email:
Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) updates that took effect this summer helped address enrollment challenges that arose in the early weeks of the program for many EBB participating providers, when a customer’s personal information didn’t match exactly their application with the national verifier. We have been using the USAC’s upgraded tool since it launched in mid-June.
USAC also made additional enhancements to the NLAD (National Lifeline Accountability Database) that allow service providers to enroll subscribers into the NLAD using the consumer’s application ID, full name, and date of birth, which also help address this issue. We appreciate that USAC listened to the concerns we and other broadband providers raised and worked quickly to roll out a new search tool to address the issues. We have a shared goal of enrolling as many eligible families in EBB as quickly as possible.Spectrum Spokesperson
New customers who want to get qualified for discounted internet service through Spectrum can visit spectrum.com/getqualified or call 1-855-662-9946. Current Spectrum customers can check their eligibility and find out more by visiting spectrum.net/broadbandbenefit
We reached out to the FCC’s office of public relations several times by phone and email but were not able to reach anyone for comment. We will continue to try and post an update if we learn more.