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WISPA Puts Price on FCC Connectivity Pledge

WISPA, which represents wireless internet service providers has come up with an estimate of how much it has cost its members to Keep Americans Connected over the life of the FCC-prompted voluntary pledge that they do so during the pandemic. 

Over 750 ISPs agreed not to cut off customers for nonpayment, to waive late fees and to offer free WiFi hotspots to anyone who needed them. 

FCC's Pai: Congress Needs Take Up Keep Americans Connected Pledge 

That WISPA accounting comes as Congress is contemplating compensating ISPs to keep Americans connected beyond the June 30 pledge's end date, something FCC chairman Ajit Pai applauds and said the FCC will work with Congress on such an initiative. He also asked ISPs to continue to keep nonpayers on the sub rolls past that date via deferred payment plans. 

In fact, it was the FCC that reached out to WISPA to get a sense of how much it was costing, according to a source.

Pai told the Senate at an oversight hearing this week that Congress should take the opportunity to "provide funding in July to help ensure that Americans have continued access to broadband and telephone services."  

According to WISPA, which polled its members on June 23, the average cost was over $30,000 per operator. 

That was based on an average sub count of 1,500. The costs broke down this way: $25,000 to cover nonpayment; $3,200 in waived late fees, and $4,500 in free WiFi. 

While the connectivity pledge technically ends June 30, a WISPA spokesperson said its members, who are connected to their local communities, would make decisions on a case-by-case basis with an eye toward erring on the side of tolerance and keeping people connected.

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.