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Verizon said it expects profits to shrink this year as the coronavirus crisis squeezes its wireless, pay TV and media divisions.

The telecom giant said Friday it lost 68,000 phone subscribers during the first quarter, due mostly to the fact that the wireless provider had to close 70 percent of its stores during the pandemic, which led to a “significant drop” in customer activity. However, the company added 59,000 FiOS broadband connections.

Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg said his company began seeing big shifts in consumer behavior around mid-March, as nationwide quarantines began taking hold. Fewer new mobile sign-ups and increases broadband and Wifi usage in homes were among the changes.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

The largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers tempered its financial forecasts for the rest of the year, lowering its profit goals and withdrawing its revenue targets. In the first quarter, the company reported a slight drop in wireless subscribers as gains in business accounts were offset by a steep decline in new consumer accounts.

Verizon increased its bad-debt reserve by $228 million based on the number of customers it expected won’t be able to pay their bills. It and other carriers signed a pledge with the Federal Communications Commission not to cut off service for 60 days or charge late fees to consumers facing pandemic-related hardships.

According to Verizon, 800,000 customers said they may have trouble paying their bills because due to the pandemic.

“We were in a position of not really having any idea what the impact of the social distancing and shelter-in-place would [be],” said Matt Ellis, Verizon’s finance chief.

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