Thanks to a pledge spearheaded by the Senate and FCC, major ISPs have been compelled to suspend their draconian data caps and/or waive late fees for the millions of Americans who have been blindsided by COVID-19. AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all agreed to loosen their grip in the wake of increased internet usage due to telecommuting and online/virtual classes.
As a result of the #coronavirus people across this country are going to be asked to move work and learning online. So NOW is a really good time for the FCC to take action to get our nation's broadband providers to lift data caps and remove overage fees. https://t.co/1qJV7whVsR— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) March 12, 2020
AT&T has essentially given all of its customers unlimited internet access by suspending its data caps. “Many of our AT&T internet customers already have unlimited home internet access, and we are waiving internet data overage for the remaining customers,” the carrier said. “Additionally, through Access From AT&T we’ll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited-income households for $10 a month.”
Starting Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is giving new Internet Essentials customers two free months of service. The download and upload speeds of the program are also being increased to 25 Mbps and 3 Mbps respectively, for both new and existing customers.
“After your first two free months expire, you can either cancel the service (which you can do at any time) or keep it as a regular paying Internet Essentials customer,” reads a passage on the application page. “You will receive an easy to use self-install-kit that includes a cable modem (to receive service at your home) with a WiFi router (to connect your devices without wires). There is no term contract or credit check and no shipping fee for equipment.”
For metered data plans, Sprint is offering unlimited data and an extra 20 GB of mobile hotspot data for 60 days starting on March 19. It’s also waiving late fees and maintaining service for those who can’t pay their bill on time. Additionally, “customers with international long distance calling plans will receive complimentary international calling rates from the U.S. to countries defined by the CDC as Level 3.”
All T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers with data plans get unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days (excluding roaming). They will also get an additional 20 GB of mobile hotspot/tethering service for the next 60 days.
Low-income customers on the Lifeline plan should expect up to 5GB of extra data per month over the next two months, while schools and students who are part of EmpowerED – digital learning programs – get access to at least 20 GB of data per month for the next 60 days.
T-Mobile is also offering “free international calling for all current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers to Level 3 impacted countries.”
Unlike some of the other carriers, Verizon hasn’t promised all of its users unlimited data because it’s more concerned with prioritizing access for emergency personnel. “Verizon has been closely monitoring network usage in the most impacted areas,” the carrier said. “The company will work with and prioritize network demand in assisting the needs of many U.S. hospitals, first responders and government agencies.”
It will, however, waive late fees for the next 60 days. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that our customers, their families and businesses have the ability to connect to the internet even if they’re facing financial hardship from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon Chairman and CEO.
Much of this was prompted by a letter from the United States Senate and the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which called on ISPs to take the following actions:
(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 Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
Many believe that data caps only exist to line the telecoms’s pockets. Could this be the beginning of their demise?