FCC chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday very publicly thanked ISPs for going "above and beyond" his Keep Americans Connected pledge in their efforts to keep the broadband pipes flowing and the public connected as quarantines, closures, sheltering and social distancing put a premium on broadband connections and capacity.
He went so far as to compile and release a list of the actions taken by the private sector in time of public need.
Close to two hundred ISPs signed on to Pai's pledge:
- "not to terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- "waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
- "open [their] WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them."
But many have gone further, he said, including lifting data caps, boosting speeds for low income residents and offering free service to new customers without contracts.
"I welcome these initiatives, hope even more companies will follow suit, and look forward to continuing to work together with the private sector to help consumers get through the disruptions caused by the pandemic," said the chairman in a statement and accompanying honor roll of those who were taking added steps at no added cost:
"ALLO Communications: Offering 50 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to households without Internet service, reducing fees for 60 days for existing and new broadband customers in need, and waiving service modification fees for businesses and residences.
"Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink): Offering 30 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to households that have K-12 and/or college students who may be displaced by school closures and do not currently have home broadband.
"AT&T: Providing all consumer home Internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, with unlimited Internet data, and funding an eLearning coalition to provide free resources to educators.
"BEK Communications: Doubling Internet speeds for all customers at no additional charge, offering broadband service for free for four months to new customers with telehealth, education, and work-from-home needs.
"C Spire: Offering free wireless data to K-12 students for educational purposes.
"CableONE/Sparklight: Offering unlimited data on all broadband services for 30 days.
"CenturyLink: Suspending data usage limits.
"Charter (Spectrum): Offering up to 100 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to new households with K-12 and/or college students and waiving installation fees for such households.
"Comcast (Xfinity): Increasing broadband speeds for Internet Essentials (low-income) customers from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps, offering broadband service for free for 60 days to new Internet Essentials customers, and offering all customers unlimited data for 60 days.
"Cox: Increasing broadband speeds for Connect2Compete (low-income) and certain other customers up to 50 Mbps temporarily, offering broadband service for free for 30 days to new Connect2Compete customers and fast-tracking the qualification process, and offering remote desktop support for free to Connect2Compete and certain other customers.
"GeoLinks: Increasing broadband speeds for customers who are working remotely.
"Hotwire Communications: Offering free 100 Mbps broadband for two months to new customers that are students or in low-income households.
"Mediacom: Increasing broadband speeds for Connect2Compete (low-income) customers from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps, offering broadband service for free for 60 days to new Connect2Compete customers; reducing prices for 60 Mbps broadband service for new customers, and suspending data usage limits through May 15.
"Nelson Cable: Increasing broadband speeds for customers that need it for distance learning, telecommuting, or telemedicine, and offering 50 Mbps broadband service for free through June 30 to new customers in need.
"Ninestar Connect: Increasing broadband speeds up to 1 Gbps through April 10 for customers on fiber.
"Socket Telecom: Increasing broadband speeds to 1 Gbps for 60 days for residential customers on fiber.
"Starry: Offering free 30 Mbps broadband service through the end of May for both new and existing customers in affordable housing.
"Sprint: Offering unlimited smartphone data and additional mobile hotspot data for 60 days, increasing data usage limits for high school students without home Internet that are supported by the 1Million Project Foundation, and accelerating the delivery of 100,000 devices originally intended for next school year to those students.
"T-Mobile: Offering unlimited smartphone data and additional mobile hotspot data for 60 days, providing additional free data to Lifeline partners’ customers, increasing data usage limits for schools and students using EmpowerED digital learning programs, and offering free international calling to COVID19 impacted countries.
"Verizon: Tripling the data usage limit for students in Title I schools that are part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Program and committing an additional $10 million to nonprofits supporting students and first responders.
"Washington Broadband: Increasing broadband speeds for student customers and offering broadband service for free to students who cannot afford it and small business owners who have had to close their businesses."
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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