Baton Rouge, La. - Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell announced plans by a major utility co-op to assist flood victims, Thursday. Following inquiries from Campbell, DEMCO told Campbell by email that they will implement a plan to assist about 106,000 customers. DEMCO, which provides utility services in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Ascension, East and West Feliciana Parishes, told Campbell today that they plan to, "effective immediately, implement a deferred payment plan for those affected by the flooding.  DEMCO has also waived penalty fees for late payments and waived deposits for new electric service for displaced customers." 

Campbell is in discussions with utility providers and phone carriers as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking aid on behalf of flood victims. On Monday, Campbell contacted the FCC by phone and subsequently sent written communication requesting their assistance in holding utilities and phone carriers accountable to flood victims. 

Today, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell spoke with Mignon Clyburn, a member of the FCC, concerning disruption of communications services caused by the flooding in South Louisiana.  Campbell asked Clyburn to use the FCC’s power to get flood victims credit on their telephone, Internet and TV bills to minimize economic hardships caused by the disaster. 

“If people are without service or out of their homes for extended periods of time, they should not be billed,” he said.  Clyburn’s office said the FCC was asking Louisiana telecom companies whether they were issuing credits to customers to minimize economic hardship, and hoping to get answers by the end of today. 

Campbell has added an item to the August 31st PSC meeting agenda to discuss telephone service in South Louisiana during the flood and possible assistance for customers from the FCC and providers.

Campbell is seeking: 

  • Billing adjustments to reflect periods of outage or periods when customers are unable to access/reside in their homes
  • Credits for exceeding data limits during the period of most intense flooding;
  • General credit for extraordinary use of minutes by customers in affected areas;
  • Credit to customers who experienced prolonged wireless outages after storms; and 
  • Discounted devices for customers who can demonstrate loss or destruction due to flooding.

Campbell is working to ensure that customers with prolonged cable, internet, landline, and cell phone outages are treated fairly, especially customers who will be unable to return to or reside in their home for an extended time due to flood damage.

Other members of the commission are working with Campbell to ensure that service is not turned off due to non-payment in the aftermath of the flood, but Campbell is even more concerned about ensuring bills are corrected from the top down so that customers don't have to seek adjustments individually. "We need uniform, quick response to this so that customers across the board are taken care of on the front end of this process," said Campbell. 

"So far, everyone is cooperating and I feel we are making progress towards getting a fair shake for everyone," said Campbell. "We will have a full, complete conversation about this at the next PSC meeting and I'll be fighting to make sure our people get proper treatment."

Ira Wray