Telcos, Cablecos Aid Disaster Relief Efforts

Dozens of telecom and cable companies are mobilizing to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, ranging from suspending bill-pay requirements to donating financial aid and communications equipment.

For example, cable provider Cox Communications said today it is suspending billing from Aug. 29 until services are restored for customers in the New Orleans area.

Cox’s first priority is taking care of our employees in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, says Greg Bicket, regional vice president and general manager for Cox Communications in New Orleans. When we are permitted to reenter storm ravaged areas, we will quickly turn our attention to rebuilding our networks and restoring service for our customers.

In the meantime, CompTel/ASCENT is calling on its members to offer any help possible. Congressman Chip Pickerings (R-Miss.) legislative director, Mike Hurst contacted CompTel/ASCENT on Thursday, requesting its members contribute secure satellite phones and BlackBerry devices for emergency responders. Right now, it is really tough for the first responders to do their job without adequate communications, he wrote in an e-mail.

While not a CompTel/ASCENT member, 3Com Corp. did announce it is providing VoIP equipment so emergency and government officials can maintain communications during the recovery and cleanup efforts. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is the first agency to use the pre-configured kits for phone service and Internet access, 3Com says. The company is hosting a toll-free number +1 866 873 7578 that disaster relief organizations and government agencies can call to request availability of the emergency communications kits.

And just as they did when last years tsunami hit Indonesia and other Asian countries, carriers are matching employees monetary donations. Verizon Communication Inc.s Verizon Foundation has started a 2-to-1 match for every dollar donated by Verizon employees to the American Red Cross. The money will go toward relief efforts in New Orleans and sections of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The Verizon Foundation says it so far has raised $2.5 million.

Our hearts go out to all those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and we continue to explore ways we can lend our human, technological and philanthropic strengths to relief efforts, says Patrick Gaston, president of the Verizon Foundation.

Verizon also is linking to the Red Cross from its Web sites, and allowing wireless customers to make donations via text message.

SBC Communications Inc.s SBC Foundation also is matching dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $1 million. The company is looking to its regular full-time employees and eligible retirees for the funds.

“When a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina strikes, it touches us all, wherever we live,” says Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman and CEO of SBC Communications Inc. “The disaster that we are witnessing is unprecedented. It demands an unprecedented response, and the SBC family is anxious to contribute.”

Divisions of SBC also are deploying free services including Wi-Fi hotspots, local and long-distance calling, high-speed Internet access and more, across the southeast and in the Houston Astrodome, where thousands of refugees have been moved from the Louisiana Superdome.

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