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USTelecom Cites 'Dire' Need for Broadband Worker PPEs

USTelecom president Jonathan Spalter told Congress needs to get more personal protective gear to broadband's front-line workers. 

President Trump included those workers in the category of "essential," which means they are asked to continue working despite the risk. 

Jonathan Spalter of USTelecom

Jonathan Spalter of USTelecom

Some of USTelecom's members have adopted a remote repair approach, using a virtual assistant to help customers with issues inside the home or small business, for example, with the customer becoming the non-virtual assistant and the technicians remaining outside the residence and sending the customer a text that starts a video chat. But that is not the case with all, and even then the technicians are not sheltering in place and must have protective equipment at the ready. 

In testimony for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday (May 13) on “The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Spalter said many of its members' employees are still in "dire need" of personal protective equipment (PPE) as they do repairs or provide direct, sometimes on-site, assistance to customers.  

He said that USTelecom, which chairs the Communications Coordinating Council, has worked with DHS and FEMA to distribute about a million cotton masks to broadband providers, but that "more and better equipment" is needed.  

"Congress should consider it a priority to provide additional protective equipment for these essential workers," he said.