Utilities & Internet

Headline:

Rhode Island Energy proposal to increase electricity rates was approved. One-time credit on gas and electric charges will be distributed on November 1, 2022. Low-income ratepayers will receive an additional $50 credit for their December and January bill.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Oct. 6, 2022

Key Resources:

Electric & Gas

The Basics

  • RI Energy 47% rate increase to its electricity service was approved.
  • On or around November 1, 2022, a ~$64 credit will be applied to RI Energy electric and gas customers. Information here.
  •  Low-income (A-60) RI Energy customers will also receive an additional $50 credit o their December and January electric bill. Information here.
  • The Public Utilities Commission voted to suspend the collection of outstanding electric debt through March 2023.
  • The annual winter moratorium will start on November 1, 2022.
  • The Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) 2022 season begins on October 1, 2022.
  • RI has new Heat Pump Incentive Program geared at reducing RI’s reliance on fossil fuels for heating.  

The Breakdown

  • Starting October 1, 2022, electric customers can expect to pay an extra $50/month on their bill. That said, some of this increase will be offset by the following:
    • As part of a settlement between RI Energy and the state of RI, electric customers will receive a one-time credit of $63.72 in November.
    • Low-income electric customers (A-60) will receive an additional $50 credit for their December and January bill.
    • Debt collection on electric accounts will be suspended through March 2023.
  • RI has $23 million dollars to fund a Heat Pump Incentive program. The program is aimed at meeting emission reduction goals by offering incentives to homeowners to install heat pumps. Additional details forthcoming. Read more about the program here.
  • In May 2022, Narragansett Electric Company was sold from National Grid to the PPL corporation. Under a rebrand, Rhode Island Energy now provides gas and electricity to former National Grid customers.
  • Utility shut-off protections are available. Contact Rhode Island Energy or a local Community Action Program to learn more about 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.
  • LIHEAP, the winter heating assistance program season, opened October 1, 2022. Check with community action programs or visit the George Wiley Center on Wednesday to apply or renew LIHEAP.

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.
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offers a discount for broadband services for eligible customers.

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. More information here.
  • 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

  • No utility moratorium is currently in place. The annual winter fuel assistance programs will begin issuing renewal applications in September 2022. 3G networks are sunsetting. Care teams can help individuals and families maintain their phone and utilities by keeping them updated about assistance programs and changes to cell networks.