When lockdowns in the U.S. were just starting and it was clear everyone would be stuck at home for the long haul, the Federal Communications Commission pushed carriers to sign its Keep Americans Connected Pledge—a promise that no one would get their internet or telephone service cut off due to an inability to pay. Now, the FCC is saying that over 2,000 Americans have filed complaints related to covid-19.
News of the complaints, which was initially reported by the Verge, comes direct from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who gave a statement today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee forum. Pai reportedly said that the FCC had received 2,200 complaints related to covid-19 and that 500 directly dealt with the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Of the 2,200, Pai said that 1,400 had already received responses from carriers. The other complaints purportedly dealt with billing, network issues, and broadband access.
The pledge originally called on carriers to keep internet service running, as well as open wifi hotspots and waive late fees for small business owners and residential customers, for 60 days. In late April, the FCC called on carriers to extend the pledge, which originally expired May 12, to the end of June. So far, over 750 carriers and ISPs have agreed.
While the pledge is a good thing, it’s not bulletproof—as the 500 pledge-specific complaints show. Gizmodo also has found that just because an ISP has signed the pledge, doesn’t mean you’re immune to service disruptions if you skip a bill. If you don’t notify your ISP that you need a financial hardship extension, you could find yourself with suspended service as apparently, suspending an account is different from terminating it.
In the meantime, three Democratic senators are currently proposing a bill dubbed the CONNECT at Home Act, which would put a moratorium on ISPs and carriers shutting off phone and internet until the global pandemic is over. The bill would also require carriers to reinstate service for Americans who may have had their service suspended beginning March 13, and keep service going—regardless of whether bills are paid—for six months after the national state of emergency is lifted.