Viasat technicians taking extra precautions during coronavirus crisis

As the need for internet grows more critical, our technicians add safety measures to make installations safer


With more people working from home and sheltering in place during the coronavirus crisis, the need for internet has never been greater. Now more than ever, Viasat technicians are responding to that need, working daily to install and maintain our service at both new and existing customers’ homes and businesses. And, as these times dictate, they’re taking extra care to protect customers and themselves.

Installation of the Viasat Internet service requires a technician to install a satellite dish outside a home or business – typically on a roof or pole mount – and connect to interior equipment before launching the service. The process usually takes a couple of hours.

Viasat has a nationwide base of installers able to service even the most hard-to-reach customers - often within a week of placing an order. With broadband service that can reach most of the US population, installation of Viasat equipment is a much quicker way to get connected than waiting for cable to trench lines or other infrastructure upgrades.

Today, in light of the coronavirus, technicians are following their usual process with several added precautions.

“We’re doing all we can to make everyone as comfortable as possible,” said Bobby Burney, a Viasat retailer and installer who owns Missouri-based AirWave. “We ask our technicians to leave the tool bag outside, and not take any unnecessary tools in the house. We’ve given them extra sanitation supplies, and they hand-sanitize and wipe down tools and surfaces inside and out of the home. We do as much as we can outside and restrict what we need to do inside as much as possible.”

Retailer Mike Bennett now starts all his installations with a phone call.

“We do a pre-call from the office, letting them know the installation process,” said Bennett, whose Ohio-based company, Direct Satellite Service, does Viasat installations in five surrounding states. “We also ask the customer that if someone in their household falls ill, to please call the office to reschedule. Of course, if something should befall our technician, we’ll do the same.

“We let them know the tech will be wearing gloves, a mask and a lanyard identifying them as an official technician. It’s all about preparing the customer, and softening that exposure at the door.”

Limiting exposure

As Burney and his technicians do, Bennett said he and his employees do most of the required tasks without entering the home or business.

“We try to do all our work from the outside, even going through provisioning,” he said, referring to the process of establishing the network connection. “When we have to have the customer’s signature, set up the account, and go through EasyStart, that’s when we go inside.”

EasyStart is a video onboarding process designed to help a customer understand the installation and become familiar with the Viasat service.

Both Bennett and Burney said installations are going well.

“We always do our best to make the customer feel comfortable when we’re going into their home, but now there are a few things that may be different,” Burney said. “We may not take off our shoes. We may wear booties. We may approach hooking up additional devices, like printers, differently for safety’s sake.

“In setting up new equipment, we do all we can on-site and then leave them instructions on how to hook up devices or offer to help them over the phone. These are things we’re doing to protect both us and them.”

Both men said requests for installations have increased during the crisis.

Ohio is among the states under a shelter-in-place order, but Bennett’s technicians are continuing to install Viasat Internet service to keep people connected – especially because the internet is an essential service for staying connected with work and school.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of critical businesses and operations includes workers providing telecommunications services.

“We’re still going out and working,” Bennett said. “So far, it’s been OK.

“Everyone has been very receptive to what we’re doing.”

Additional company directives

Viasat sent an email message to its nationwide retailer network on March 20, urging them not only to follow safety precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but to take additional steps, including:

  • Skipping handshakes;
  • Verifying the health and well-being of the technician and those within a house/business;
  • Wearing safety equipment such as rubber gloves and masks; and
  • Wiping surfaces pre- and post-installation with disinfecting wipes.

Viasat also authorized additional funds to retailers and technicians for their use to purchase items like gloves, masks and disinfecting wipes to help protect themselves and customers.
Jason Bittick, Viasat’s Director of Operations, Field Services, said all of this is important to keep everyone safe - and connected - during the emergency.

“The health and safety of our customers and technicians is a top priority for Viasat,” Bittick said. “As soon as the COVID-19 crisis emerged, we started working on a plan to ensure we could maintain our quick installations and keep everybody safe.”