Major internet providers have agreed not to terminate services for subscribers for the next 60 days if they’re unable to pay their bills on time due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said after calls with more than 50 internet providers, they agreed to waive any late fees residential or small business customers incur because of their financial circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.
They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them.
Among the companies to endorse the pledge are major and minor internet providers, including AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Google Fiber, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Millions of Americans are expected to work and study from home as employers and states urge people to stay away from public places such as workplaces and schools to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Pai said in a statement:
“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected.”
“Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also asked the FCC to go farther and request companies to lift and eliminate data caps and overage charges as well.
Jessica also asked internet providers to get hospitals connected and ensure there are hot spots for loans to school children.
“Provide hotspots for loan for students whose school doors have closed [and] work with healthcare providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined.”
As a result, Charter Communications agreed to offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for up to 60 days and waive installation fees to households with students without its service.
For customers with international long distance plans, Sprint said it’ll provide free international calling rates from the US to countries with large coronavirus outbreaks.
Cox Communications reported it’s already offering a one-month free service to its new customers of the low-income service, and it has also increased the service’s speed.
AT&T said it’s waiving internet data overage fees for customers who don’t have unlimited home internet access while Comcast said it’ll give its Internet Essentials service away for free for 60 days.
But Verizon said it had “not seen any measurable increase in data usage on any of its networks.” More than 60 percent of US network traffic is video and content streaming.