Internet, cable companies won’t shut off service to those who can’t pay during outbreak
Internet, wireless, cable, water and other companies say they are suspending shutoffs for nonpayment during the coronavirus outbreak, with some adding extra services.
Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, US Cellular, Sprint, Spectrum and Comcast are among the companies that have signed the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.” The aim is to ensure that consumers don’t lose their broadband or telephone connectivity because they can’t pay.
Companies taking the pledge must agree, over the next 60 days, to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills because of the coronavirus pandemic, waive late fees because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus and open company Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
Charter said that starting Monday and running for 60 days it will offer free Spectrum broadband and wifi access to households with K-12 or college students who do not already have a subscription. Installation fees will be waived for new student households. The service level is up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395.
It also plans to open its existing wifi hotspots for public use.
“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, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. “That’s why I’m asking all broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.
“I applaud those companies that have already taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. They are stepping up to the plate and taking critical steps that will make it easier for Americans to stay connected during this pandemic and maintain much-needed social distancing. I urge other companies to join them. This may be a difficult time for our nation, but if we all work together, I am confident that we can rise to the challenge.” In addition to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,
Chairman Pai commended companies that have already taken additional steps to ensure that Americans, especially low-income American families and veterans, remain connected. He exhorted those companies with low income broadband programs like the Connect2Compete program to expand and improve them (for example, by increasing speeds to 25/3 Mbps and expanding eligibility) and those without to adopt such programs. He also called on broadband providers to relax their data cap policies in appropriate circumstances, on telephone carriers to waive long-distance and overage fees in appropriate circumstances, on those that serve schools and libraries to work with them on remote learning opportunities, and on all network operators to prioritize the connectivity needs of hospitals and healthcare providers. Chairman Pai also continued the Commission’s ongoing discussions with service providers regarding their efforts to ensure that changes in usage patterns occurring during the pandemic do not impair network performance, as well as their plans to ensure network resiliency.