AT&T just confirmed that it will be waiving data overage fees for all its internet customers, which means if you go over your data cap, you won’t be fined. The reason? Coronavirus, of course.
AT&T announced the decision, first reported by Vice, in an official statement provided to Gizmodo: “Many of our AT&T Internet customers already have unlimited home internet access, and we are waiving internet data overages for the remaining customers. Additionally, through Access from AT&T we’ll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited income households for $10 a month.”
AT&Ts decision comes after 17 senators issued a joint letter to the largest ISPs in the U.S. asking for a temporary suspension on data caps and associated fees or throttling in places affected by the coronavirus, or Covid-19. The letter also asks those same ISPs to work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide students with free or at-cost internet access if they don’t have it at home. According to the senators: “No one should be penalized or suffer financial duress for following guidance of the CDC, their employer, local public health officials, or school leaders.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also issued an official statement today calling on the FCC to “take aggressive action in response to Covid-19” and get all of the nations ISPs to lift data caps and remove overage fees.
“The FCC should work with health care providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined. In addition, as classrooms move online, the FCC should identify how it can use its authority to provide wifi hotspots for loan for students whose schools have closed their doors.”
With universities, school districts, and companies like Google and Twitter requesting students, teachers, and staff telecommute until further notice, more and more people will be reliant on their home internet connection for work and school, and getting rid of data caps means one less thing to worry about.
Data caps have been shown to be ineffective at declogging network traffic, Vice notes. In 2015, a leaked Comcast memo instructed PR representatives to not tell customers that its data caps are about congestion management, because “it’s not.”
We have reached out to some of the other ISPs to see if any of those companies will be waiving data overage fees, and will update this article if or when we hear back.
Editor’s note: Quotes from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s statement were added after the initial publication of this article.