Communications companies big and small have signed on to a "Keep Americans Connected Pledge" at the request of FCC chairman Ajit Pai and in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Pai talked with broadband service providers and trade associations Thursday (March 12) and asked them, "in order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, to agree to the following for at least the next 60 days:
(1) "not 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;
(2) "waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
(3) "open its WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them."
“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected," said Pai. "Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus."
He said the FCC continues to talk with service providers about being able to keep up with changes in usage patterns--as in lots more traffic--during the pandemic to make sure it does not impair network performance.
ISPs have already taken some of those steps, but the FCC said the following companies have agreed to take the pledge.
ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone, Allstream Business US, AlticeUSA, Antietam Broadband, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, BBT, BOYCOM Vision, Burlington Telecom, Cable One, Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Digital West, East Ascension Telephone Company, Education Networks of America, Emery Telecom, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Grande Communications, Granite Telecommunications, Great Plains Communications, GWI, Hiawatha Broadband, Hill Country, IdeaTek Telcom, Inteliquent, Lafourche Telephone Company, Lakeland Communications, Long Lines Broadband, Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband, Mediacom, MetTel, Nex-Tech, Ninestar Connect, Northwest Fiber, Orbitel Communications, Pioneer Communications, Premier Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, RCN, Reserve Telephone Company, Sacred Wind Communications, Shawnee Communications, Socket Telecom, Sonic, Sprint, Starry, TDS Telecom, TelNet Worldwide, T-Mobile, TracFone Wireless, Uniti Fiber, US Cellular, Vast Broadband, Verizon, Vyve Broadband Investments, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, Wave Broadband, West Telecom Services, Windstream, and ZenFi Networks. And the trade associations ACA Connects, Competitive Carriers of America, CTIA, INCOMPAS, NCTA—The Internet and Television Association, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom, and WISPA have all endorsed the pledge.
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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.