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Remote working, learning increasing internet costs for Las Vegas customers

Posted at 5:47 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 00:31:16-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Local families say they are paying the price with their kids' distance learning along with parents working from home when it comes to their internet usage and cost.

The pandemic has made working from home the current normal with internet usage being essential in order to do business.

“We had to make some adjustments because we just didn’t have enough capacity to have everybody online all day without increasing our internet and of course there’s a cost that went with that," said Rebecca Garcia, parent.

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Garcia is facing that challenge. Her husband is a county worker and she is a parent advocate as president of the Nevada PTA. Coupled with her kids attending school virtually, she estimates her internet bill has gone up by about 40 percent compared to the start of the year by installing high-speed hotspots with their cell phone lines.

“Internet access has never been treated like a utility, but we’re seeing it is an essential service like having power, gas, and water,” Garcia said.

She says she knows other families who are trying to make ends meet to provide internet access.

“For a lot of those families, an extra $50 a month is a huge burden that maybe would have been six or seven months ago,” Garcia said.

Remote learning has presented many challenges for teachers within Clark County and one teacher is adding internet charges to that list.

“My bill went up from $39.99 to $109," said Ashley Juresic, a teacher at Molasky Junior High School.

She was stunned to see the overage charges she now has to pay and says she contacted Cox Communications about the overages.

“I was trying to see if maybe we could do something about my overages and bring my payment down and they suggested spending more money,” Juresic said.

RELATED STORY: CCSD works with Google to fix distance learning issues

Karoline Khamis, a 5th-grade teacher at Paul Culley Elementary School, says she hasn’t faced as drastic of a bill but has had to spend more to get remote learning up and running online.

“This is an expense we’ll be incurring on our own without any hope of reimbursement,” she said.

Stats from the Internet and Television Association show that downstream and upstream internet traffic from cable companies have grown more than 15 percent in Nevada since March first.

Cox Communications, one of the main internet service providers in the valley, says it’s trying to help. In a statement they told 13 Action News:

“We raised data allowances across the board by 25% and are waiving the overage charge for the first time a customer exceeds.”

It also says 95 percent of its customers don’t go over the 1.25 terabyte data limit and won’t face overage charges.

Garcia says there are low-cost internet access programs available for families, especially if their kids are CCSD students, but feels there’s more to be done to help.

“This is an issue that’s going to require federal legislation and it’s going to require our state officials to work together,’ she said.

Juresic believes Cox should take additional steps.

“The ideal situation for me and other families would be to get rid of the data cap or to also just eliminate overages and freeze whatever your payment is now,” she said.