EASTERN ONTARIO — Supplying an essential service is nothing new to Storm Internet Services, and the COVID-19 crisis has the 24-year-old broadband provider rising to the challenge of today’s unique demands.
If ever there was a time that Eastern Ontario households are reliant on 24/7 internet connectivity as a communications lifeline, it’s now — with much of the population staying home or working from home.
In a nod to the extraordinary circumstances faced by clients both rural and urban, Storm has made recent moves to directly ease the burden “during this very difficult time,” notes Gayle Moore, Storm’s Vice President, Human Resources & Administration/Corporate Secretary.
Key measures include adding 100 Gb to the cap of wireless clients not already on plans with unlimited data, for the month of March — a policy to be reviewed each month going forward. The company has also postponed its auto-lock process “so clients who may be a little behind in making payments to their accounts do not suffer,” says Moore, adding, “Our billing department is working closely with clients to ensure payments are made successfully to their accounts.”
Storm Internet’s trucks have been rolling every business day since the crisis ramped up, its service technicians handling customer installs and scaling the firm’s impressive network of wireless towers to make tweaks as required. It takes a team to make the system function properly, day in, day out. Their efforts help ensure that “social distancing” is an achievable goal for many in the broader community.
Storm is adhering to all government guidelines and mandates.
Though its offices are closed to the public, sales and support personnel continue to field calls and sign up new accounts across the company’s range of products — ranging from DSL to cable internet, to the rural wireless service that has long been the company’s specialty. Storm clients also rely on the firm for telephone service — through voice-over-ip (VOIP) technology — as well as dial-up, co-location and web-hosting.
“For our DSL, Cable and VOIP services, new clients will be accepted as long as our Third Party Internet Access providers are working with us,” Moore explains. “For our wireless clients, commercial and residential installs will continue to take place unless such time as our procedures in place make it no longer viable for our field techs to continue to work in a safe and healthy environment.
The company remains committed to servicing all clients “during this very difficult time,” she emphasizes. As far as sales and service, “it’s business as usual for the unforeseeable future,” with the caveat that Storm has undertaken internal measures to protect employees and the public — and comply with the rules laid down by the authorities.
“No clients, existing or new, will be turned away, and Storm remains committed to our normal high standards of quality service,” says Moore. “All of that being said, please make no mistake — Storm’s number one priority remains its employees. As long as our employees remain safe and healthy, Storm will continue to provide the best quality of service that it can provide during this very difficult and ever changing time.
“Our Commercial and Residential Client Service representatives as well as our Admin, Billing and Sales Groups are all working from their homes; there are procedures in place for our field crews conducting installs, service calls and infrastructure work that ensure limited contact to clients; these procedures continue to be monitored and reviewed on a daily basis.”
Hardware needed by existing or new clients is being shipped directly to their homes and businesses from Storm’s Ottawa office exclusively. Similarly, any hardware being sent back can only be returned to Storm’s Ottawa office, and the company points out that clients have been provided with shipping-free instructions.
Michel Lalonde, Vice President, Sales & Operations, says they have noticed an uptick in new subscribers “wanting more reliable service” since the crisis hit. Adding customers to the network does create more demand for bandwidth, he acknowledges, but Storm was already building up its systems and continues to upgrade “as fast as we can.”
As one of Ontario’s leading rural internet service providers since 1996, Storm has focused on continuous innovation and customer-driven service and support that consistently exceed expectations. Storm serves both residential and small-to-medium sized business customers in Ontario and Quebec and provides high-speed internet access across 8,000 square kilometers of the Ottawa Valley and beyond.