According to a report by Reuters, major U.S. internet providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have agreed to not cancel customers’ internet service for the next 60 days due to non-payment, over potential Covid-19-related disruptions. Additionally, the companies have also agreed to waive any late fees residential or small business owners might incur and to open its wifi hotspots to anyone who needs them. The agreement is part of the FCC’s new “Keep Americans Connected” pledge, which was launched today by FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
This decision comes just 24 hours after FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and several U.S. senators issued separate statements to the FCC and major ISPs to lift data caps, waive overage fees, stop throttling, and work with schools, universities, hospitals and other groups and individuals to provide internet access without prohibitive economic barriers. AT&T was the first major ISP to announce it would waive overage fees for its customers.
In Verizon’s statement today, it mentioned that it was also “increasing its capital investment guidance from $17 to $18 billion to $17.5 to $18.5 billion in 2020,” to create a better internet and cell service infrastructure for the future, although it did not detail exactly what would be done other than maintaining a focus on building its 5G infrastructure and that kind of vague puffery should be taken with a huge grain of salt.
Comcast did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for confirmation.
Following the ISPs pledge, Rosenworcel followed up with another statement, saying, “Today’s pledge by a number of broadband providers is a welcome first step. But we will need to do more to keep the country connected.” Rosenworcel suggested an immediate course of action that includes: ISPs provide free wifi hotspots to students whose schools have temporary closed so they continue to attend class virtually; ensure patients can connect to doctors and hospitals via telehealth networks; and for ISPs to expand their pledges to totally eliminate data caps and overage fees.