The person looking in your neighbor's window with a ladder might actually be from the cable company. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many cable and internet companies had to switch to "virtual assistance." That means walking the customer through repairs or setup, sometimes even through the window.
"Everyone is home, so you have more devices on the network," said Ingo Hentschel, the head of field operations at Cox Cable. "So the Wi-Fi settings and the setup become really critical."
Hentschel said overnight they saw demand on their systems jump by 40% because of the stay at home order. Cox had already been working on a virtual assistance program, so they rushed it out. Now, the technicians are helping people through phone and video calls.
"The customer has really become the hands and the technician is the one that walks them through it," Hentschel said. "We had a technician on a ladder up against a bedroom window, walking a customer through how to set it up."
Cox isn't the only company that has been using remote technicians. AT&T told NBC 7 Responds that they had been using remote video calls as much as possible, but sometimes they do send a technician wearing PPE into a home. In a statement, spokesperson Jim Kimberly said:
"Based on CDC Guidelines to protect technicians and our customers, we have already taken numerous steps, including screening each customer visit when a technician is dispatched. We also make sure that before our technicians enter a home they answer a list of questions and evaluate the situation. If they are not comfortable entering a home based on the responses to these questions they will not do so."
Cox says it will being in-home repairs and setups on June 20th, but that its virtual assistance program has been received very well.
"There were very few situations where our technicians weren't able to figure it out," said Hentschel. "I couldn't be more proud of both our technicians and our customers."
Cox still charged the installation fee, because of the time their technician was spending on the phone or at the window. However, Hentschel says some solutions were only temporary and customers will not be charged for the permanent repair when a technician can visit in-person.