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Senators Seeks ISP Action on Coronavirus-Affected Communities

Sen. John Warner led a letter to ISPs

Sen. John Warner led a letter to ISPs

Democratic Legislators were weighing on from the Senate side on what ISPs should be doing in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

In a letter to the CEO's of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon--a similar effort came from the House side--led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Wash.), the senators called on ISPs to suspend fees and "restrictions" (like overage charges) that could "limit telepresence options. 

Verizon Says It Is Ready for Broadband-Related Virus Ramp-UP 

They also want free, or "at cost" broadband for students without current online access. Comcast, for one, has offered 60 days of free broadband for low-income residents in its service area currently without broadband service. AT&T has suspended overage charges, and NCTA-The Internet & Television Association says all its members are working on ways to help during the crisis. 

"[W]e ask that you temporarily suspend broadband caps and associated fees or throttling for all communities affected by COVID-19 and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost, broadband options for students whose schools close due to COVID-19 who don’t have access at home," they said. That would arguably be all communities since the effects of the virus are countrywide. 

Related: Rosenworcel Calls for Aggressive FCC Action 

Also signing on to the letter were Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Me.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich). 

Perhaps tellingly, there were no Republicans on the letter, whose talk of throttling and data caps invoked the net neutrality fight that split the parties. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.