Major U.S. internet firms agree not to cancel service
over next 60 days
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[March 14, 2020] By
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. telecoms
regulator said Friday that major internet providers - including Comcast
Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc - agreed not to terminate
service for subscribers for the next 60 days if they are unable to pay
their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said after calls
with more than 50 companies that they also agreed to waive any late fees
residential or small business customers incur because of their economic
circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.
They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them.
Millions of Americans are expected to work and study from home as
employers and states urge people to stay away from workplaces and
schools to reduce the potential to spread the coronavirus.
Others agreeing to take part include Alphabet Inc's Google Fiber,
Charter Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, Cox Communications [COXC.UL],
Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc.
"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," Pai said in a statement.
"Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and
doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning."
Many companies also agreed to waive data limits for the next 60 days.
Charter Communications said it would offer free broadband and Wi-Fi
access for 60 days and waive installation fees to households with
students without its service.
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People look at data on their mobiles as background with internet
wire cables on switch hub is projected in this picture illustration
taken May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration
For customers with international long distance plans, Sprint will provide free
international calling rates from the United States to countries with large
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, praised the companies adopting
the pledge, but said the FCC should do more.
She called on the commission to "provide hotspots for loan for students whose
school doors have closed" and "work with healthcare providers to ensure
connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and
nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined."
Pai also said he had asked providers that offer low-income consumers lower-speed
cheaper service to increase speeds and expand eligibility. Comcast said Thursday
it was raising its speeds for all its low-income users, while AT&T said it was
waiving data caps for home consumers that have plans with usage caps.
Internet firms expressed confidence that U.S. networks can withstand the
predicted jump in traffic.
The trade group U.S. Telecom said in a letter to Congress on Friday that in
areas where workers are being told to stay home the group has "not observed time
shifted traffic exceeding peak network capacity."
Verizon said it had "not seen any measurable increase in data usage on any of
its networks." More than 60% of U.S. network traffic is video and content
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O'Brien)
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