- Wireless service and internet connectivity are perhaps more important now than they’ve ever been for the millions of Americans stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T have extended their commitment to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected pledge that was originally set to expire in May.
- The pledge says that these companies won’t cut off service or levy late fees for customers unable to pay right now, with millions of Americans out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic’s catastrophic financial damage which has also spurred Congress to send out coronavirus stimulus payments to Americans.
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The coronavirus quarantines and stay-at-home orders that have been a fact of life around the country for more than a month now have made smartphones and internet connectivity perhaps as indispensable as they’ve ever been for most people. Hunkering down at home has been an interminable ordeal that’s at least in a small way alleviated by our digital connections to the outside world, giving us the ability to do everything from streaming TV and movies to enjoying video chats with friends and loved ones — not to mention the millions of Americans that have been adjusting to the peculiar rhythms of working from home.
It’s with all this in mind that the major US wireless carriers have signed on to a pact extending some coronavirus-related concessions through this summer. Specifically, companies and internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast have pledged not to cut off service to customers through June 30, extending a promise that originally went through the middle of May.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced this initiative, the Keep Americans Connected promise, in March. The promise, which companies voluntarily signed on to, was extended to both residential and small business service if customers ran into trouble paying their bills — the impetus being that several million new Americans are out of work right now as a result of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy. Moreover, the major carriers signing on to this pledge from the FCC also said they would waive late fees and allow anyone to access their Wi-Fi hotspots.
This promise may be extended even farther still. In recent days, for example, a coalition of two dozen state attorneys general called on the companies to extend the pledge through August 11.
Comcast said that in addition to its commitment here, it’s also temporarily giving its customers unlimited data access for no extra charge.
The commission also granted “Special Temporary Authority” to allow 33 wireless internet service providers in rural communities — as well as companies like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and others — to use additional spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for broadband service during the coronavirus pandemic.