Utilities & Internet

Headline:

The winter utility shut-off moratorium expired on April 15, 2022. 3G networks are being phased out impacting people with older phones and some medical devices.

Last-reviewed: 9am, June 22, 2022

Key Resources:

Electric & Gas

The Basics

The Breakdown

  • The winter moratorium on utility terminations ends April 15, 2022. After this date, utility terminations on accounts with arrearages previously protected by the moratorium may proceed unless there is a shut-off protection. Contact National Grid or a local Community Action Program to learn more about special shut-off protections.
  • RentReliefRI is closed to new rental and utility assistance applications. Pending completed applications will continue to be processed.  
  • For advocacy assistance or more information, visit the George Wiley Center.

The Bottom Line

  • The annual winter moratorium is ending. Some individuals and families will be a risk of a utility termination starting in mid-April. Care teams can help people think about ways they can manage potential utility debt by exploring shut-off protections eligibility, enrolling into payment plans, and maximizing all other available benefits to help free budgets for utility arrearages.

Water

The Basics

  • A new federally funded program, called the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), will offer one-time grants of $500 to cover water and wastewater bills. It is not yet open to applications. More information here.

The Breakdown

  • To date, there is no statewide moratorium on water shut-offs. Some water authorities are offering shut-off protection, while others are not.

The Bottom Line

  • The annual winter moratorium is in effect. While protected customers cannot have their heating utility terminated, customers can still accrue utility debt. Care teams can help people think about ways they can manage potential utility debt by exploring shut-off protections eligibility, enrolling into payment plans, and maximizing all other available benefits to help free budget for utility arrearages.

Telephone and Internet

The Basics

  • When cell phone carriers switch to 5G, they will stop service to phones, medical devices, and security systems that run on 3G. People with older phones will not be able makes calls including emergency calls to 911.
  • A new permanent broadband benefit program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) replaced the Electronic Broadband Benefit on December 31, 2021.

The Breakdown

  • Cell phone carriers are shutting down 3G networks as part of a transition to 4G LTE and 5G networks. This means for people with older phones will not be able to make calls including ones to 911. Some networks have already shut down their 3G service, such as AT&T, while others like Verizon plan to sunset their 3G service by the end of the year. For additional information about the timeline and how to upgrade affected devices, visit the FCC website.
  • The ACP offers a $30/monthly discount for eligible households. The ACP broadens income and participation eligibility. Enrollment opened on December 31, 2021.
    • More information here (updated February 22, 2022).
  • The FCC has taken action to raise awareness about the Nationwide Lifeline Program for affordable telephone or internet service, a benefit for which many consumers may be newly eligible during the pandemic.

Resources:

  • The RI Office of Innovation has other resources on obtaining phone and Internet access.
  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance also has this nationwide resource list.
  • EveryoneOn has a tool to search for low-cost internet service and computers in areas near you.
  • Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL) is offering technology and training supports to Rhode Islanders with disabilities and who experienced COVID-19 related hardships. More information here (ESP).

The Bottom Line

  • 3G networks are sunsetting and care teams can help individuals and families maintain their phone connection by alerting them to the changes in network. Also, special funding is available to offset Internet related costs. Care teams can help individuals and families keep their Internet access by sharing information about benefit and discount programs.