MOORHEAD - With coronavirus forcing more workers and students to work and take classes from home, internet providers are ramping up service to get local students connected to the internet, or offering unlimited data and payment deferrals if needed.

Brian Crommett, CEO of Moorhead-based 702 Communications, said Monday, March 16, that his firm has been preparing for the last couple of weeks.

The internet provider is offering free service upgrades to the firms it serves for now, and, “we also have had some contact with both Fargo Public and Moorhead Public Schools to see if we can get some emergency connectivity for families that may not have had it in the first place. So, we’re working with both of them to help get people (hooked) up at home,” he said.

But most people are hooked into the web already, so “we’re definitely not overwhelmed at this point,” Crommett said.

Customers in apartment complexes that 702 already serves can get service in 48 hours or less, and same day if they decide to try a wireless modem option.

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Crommett said users may need to upgrade their internet speeds. Many cable subscriptions may offer 50 megabits flowing to a home, but only 2 or 3 megabits flowing upstream.

“What people don’t realize is, if you’re creating content, which you would be doing if you were hosting a classroom in your home or a meeting from your home, you need to have enough upload speed to do that in high definition. You’d be looking for at least 5 megabit per second up but 10 meg up is more appropriate if you needed it in high definition. If you’re streaming in 4K, you need at least 25 megabits upstream,” he said.

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“You just really need to be aware of what you’re doing, and also what everybody else in your house is doing. Suddenly, if you’re working from home and you’ve got kids at home now and they’re all watching TV, if you’ve got a couple of high-def Netflix sessions going on, each of those is probably using 5 megabits and so suddenly, if you’ve got 10 or 20 or 25 megs, it might not be enough to have everyone doing everything as normal. So, either limit your kids’ screen time while you’re working, or consider calling in and asking to get an upgrade from your provider,” Crommett said.

Crommett said businesses may also need to help employees by getting firewalls or virtual private networks installed on home laptops or computers so work can be done securely.

Midco has announced that it’s taking part in the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure people don’t lose broadband or telephone connectivity.

“Over the next 60 days, we won’t disconnect service if a customer is unable to pay, and we will waive late fees for customers having economic challenges during the coronavirus pandemic,” the firm said on its website.

Technicians will take extra steps before entering homes and businesses to ensure their safety, as well as that of customers, Midco said.

Phoenix-based Sparklight (formerly Cable One) announced Monday that it was opening WiFi hotspots across its footprint for public use during the coronavirus crisis to keep individuals and communities connected online. In Fargo, Sparklight’s WiFi hotspot can be accessed in the parking lot of the firm’s office at 1024 Page Drive.

OnFriday, March 13, Sparklight announced it was making unlimited data available on all internet services for 30 days, as well as offering payment deferrals and waiving late fees for its customers for 60 days.

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.