FCC chair Ajit Pai says the FCC is committed to holding ISPs to their Keep Americans Connected pledge to keep subs connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the chairman's press conference Thursday (April 23) following the open meeting teleconference, Pai hailed the pledge signers, including for going beyond the pledge, and said he had gotten a "ton of positive feedback" about the pledge.
But Pai was asked about how the FCC would enforce the pledge, which has been signed by more than 700 ISPs, in response to any complaints about noncompliance. The FCC's authority of broadband access was mostly deeded to the Federal Trade Commission when it reclassified internet access as an information service.
Pai said he has been personally working with the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to "make sure that providers are following through with the commitments that they made"--it is voluntary, so not something the Enforcement Bureau can enforce. But he also said he would use every tool in the toolbox, if necessary, to enforce it, which could include referring anyone who did not keep their pledge to the Federal Trade Commission, with which it has a memorandum of understanding.
He said that, as the FCC did with the issue of robocalls, he stands ready to work with the FTC on the pledge enforcement.
Pai talked with broadband service providers and trade associations last month 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."
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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.