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AT&T suspends pointless data caps in response to coronavirus

Published Mar 13th, 2020 5:00PM EDT
AT&T data caps
Image: Lynne Sladky/AP/Shutterstock

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  • AT&T announced that it will be suspending data caps and overage fees as COVID-19 spreads.
  • It has been proven time and again that ISP data caps are complete nonsense and could be eliminated in an instant without hurting the service providers that enforce them.
  • The US Senate has reached out to other ISPs to urge them to act in response to this crisis.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage to read more stories.

One of the many, many things that the coronavirus pandemic has proven is that the internet should be a public utility, not a luxury. If you yourself have not been told to work from home yet, you probably know someone who has, and no matter what your job is, you likely need access to the internet to do it. In light of this, Vice reports that AT&T will be suspending broadband data caps for all of its customers until further notice.

“Many of our AT&T Internet customers already have unlimited home internet access, and we are waiving internet data overage for the remaining customers,” a company spokesperson told Vice.

Internet service providers claim that data usage caps and the overage fees are necessary in order to manage the capacity of their networks, but as Vice points out, leaks on Reddit and admissions from ISP CEOs themselves prove otherwise. These limitations are simply an arbitrary way for ISPs to raise prices without a reasonable explanation. So before you pat AT&T on the back, know that the company could eliminate data caps altogether at any time.

That said, the suspension of data caps is good news for affected consumers, and a coalition of senators sent a letter to the CEOs of every major service provider in the US on Thursday asking for them follow AT&T’s lead in suspending caps as well as look into providing free or cheap broadband for students stuck at home:

As organizations around the country formulate their responses to the recent outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, we write to discuss the steps that your company is taking to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services.

Specifically, we ask that you temporarily suspend broadband caps and associated fees or throttling for all communities affected by COVID-19 and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost, broadband options for students whose schools close due to COVID-19 who don’t have access at home.

AT&T explains on its website that data usage allowance “is designed to help keep internet service affordable for our broad base of customers given the rapidly increasing volume of data-rich internet traffic.” And yet, no matter how long this crisis lasts and how long AT&T’s data caps are suspended, I have a funny feeling the conglomerate that reported $181.2 billion in revenue in 2019 will still be up and running without those overage fees.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.