At least 69 U.S. cable and telecommunications companies have pledged to not cut off broadband or telephone service for the next 60 days to any customers — even if they’re unable to pay their bills. The industry took the step as the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic with offices, schools and events shutting down temporarily.
Amid the quickly spreading move toward “social distancing” in recent days, companies including Comcast, AT&T, Charter, Verizon and Cox have signed on to the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.”
That specifies that broadband and telephone providers will “not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” In addition, the companies promise to waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur “because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.” The FCC initiative also calls on operators to open their Wi-Fi hotspots to the general public for free.
“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,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement issued Friday. “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.”
Separately from the FCC’s pledge, Comcast has announced it will provide free broadband for low-income families and Charter said it will offer free broadband to families with students for the next 60 days.
Consumer-advocacy group Free Press welcomed the pledge by telecom providers to suspend disconnections during the coronavirus crisis, it urged internet service providers to do more.
“While a few large ISPs have decided to drop their arbitrary and unreasonable data caps and overage fees, many have not,” Free Press campaign director Candace Clement said in a statement. “We call on all the major ISP trade organizations to urge their members to halt disconnects, eliminate caps and overage fees, and offer low-cost service packages and other forms of relief to internet users.”
Here is the full list of companies that say they have committed to the FCC pledge: ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone, Allstream Business US, Altice USA, Antietam Broadband, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, BBT, BOYCOM Vision, Burlington Telecom, Cable One, Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Digital West, East Ascension Telephone Company, Education Networks of America, Emery Telecom, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Grande Communications, Granite Telecommunications, Great Plains Communications, GWI, Hiawatha Broadband, Hill Country, IdeaTek Telcom, Inteliquent, Lafourche Telephone Company, Lakeland Communications, Long Lines Broadband, Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband, Mediacom, MetTel, Nex-Tech, Ninestar Connect, Northwest Fiber, Orbitel Communications, Pioneer Communications, Premier Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, RCN, Reserve Telephone Company, Sacred Wind Communications, Shawnee Communications, Socket Telecom, Sonic, Sprint, Starry, TDS Telecom, TelNet Worldwide, T-Mobile, TracFone Wireless, Uniti Fiber, US Cellular, Vast Broadband, Verizon, Vyve Broadband Investments, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, Wave Broadband, West Telecom Services, Windstream, and ZenFi Networks.