FCC secures pledge from U.S. ISPs to keep Americans connected during coronavirus outbreak

Yesterday, in multiple phone calls with broadband and telephone service providers and trade associations, U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge by emphasizing the importance of keeping Americans connected as the country experiences serious disruptions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. And in order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked them to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

FCC Keep Americans Connected PledgeThe Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

(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.

Less than 24 hours after the Chairman’s calls, the following companies have already told Chairman Pai that they are taking the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will implement it as soon as possible: ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone, Allstream Business US, AlticeUSA, Antietam Broadband, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, BBT, BOYCOM Vision, Burlington Telecom, Cable One, Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Digital West, East Ascension Telephone Company, Education Networks of America, Emery Telecom, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Grande Communications, Granite Telecommunications, Great Plains Communications, GWI, Hiawatha Broadband, Hill Country, IdeaTek Telcom, Inteliquent, Lafourche Telephone Company, Lakeland Communications, Long Lines Broadband, Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband, Mediacom, MetTel, Nex-Tech, Ninestar Connect, Northwest Fiber, Orbitel Communications, Pioneer Communications, Premier Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, RCN, Reserve Telephone Company, Sacred Wind Communications, Shawnee Communications, Socket Telecom, Sonic, Sprint, Starry, TDS Telecom, TelNet Worldwide, T- Mobile, TracFone Wireless, Uniti Fiber, US Cellular, Vast Broadband, Verizon, Vyve Broadband Investments, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, Wave Broadband, West Telecom Services, Windstream, and ZenFi Networks. And the trade associations ACA Connects, Competitive Carriers of America, CTIA, INCOMPAS, NCTA—The Internet and Television Association, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom, and WISPA have all endorsed the pledge.

“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. Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” said Chairman Pai in a statement. “That’s why I’m asking all broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.

“I applaud those companies that have already taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. They are stepping up to the plate and taking critical steps that will make it easier for Americans to stay connected during this pandemic and maintain much-needed social distancing. I urge other companies to join them. This may be a difficult time for our nation, but if we all work together, I am confident that we can rise to the challenge.”

In addition to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, Chairman Pai commended companies that have already taken additional steps to ensure that Americans, especially low-income American families and veterans, remain connected. He exhorted those companies with low- income broadband programs like the Connect2Compete program to expand and improve them (for example, by increasing speeds to 25/3 Mbps and expanding eligibility) and those without to adopt such programs. He also called on broadband providers to relax their data cap policies in appropriate circumstances, on telephone carriers to waive long-distance and overage fees in appropriate circumstances, on those that serve schools and libraries to work with them on remote learning opportunities, and on all network operators to prioritize the connectivity needs of hospitals and healthcare providers.

Chairman Pai also continued the Commission’s ongoing discussions with service providers regarding their efforts to ensure that changes in usage patterns occurring during the pandemic do not impair network performance, as well as their plans to ensure network resiliency.

Source: U.S. Federal Communications Commission

6 Comments

  1. But the vast majority of those that have data caps will keep those data caps in place.

    Doing something data intensive remotely from home where your data sets are on the company servers? Sure, you’ll keep your connection, but next month you very likely will be hit with a much bigger bill because you went over your data cap!

      1. TT, re-read Shadowself. He isn’t talking about folks who hog bandwidth to watch a different 8k UHD movie in every room of the house. He is talking about people who are compelled to work at home on datasets that are normally handled by their employer’s 1000BASE-T Ethernet.

        Similarly for students from closed schools who not only need computers and fast two-way connections for distance learning classes and labs, but will also be doing all their research and studying on line at home because the libraries are closed. Multiply by however many students are in the house (including college students sent home when their dorm closed).

        There are still a lot of Americans who do not have access to fast Internet at their home locations, and even more who cannot afford such access. Distance working and learning isn’t an option for them. All these office and school closings underline how deep the digital divide cuts in America. Ditto for the divide between office workers and service workers who cannot possibly work at home.

        The parallel to the ”you can have service if you can afford it” situation is the similar situation for medical care. You may be guaranteed a free Covid-19 test, but you will still owe the copay for the doctor visit necessary to obtain the test. Unless you don’t have insurance (like nearly a third of Texas residents), in which case you will pay retail for the visit to a doctor or emergency room, plus full price for the subsequent treatment.

        1. TxUser, reread my post.

          There is a reason for DATA caps that can’t be magically changed.
          Bandwidth hogs drain available usage from others in a specific node.

          Even if an ISP wants to remove the caps, which they can, it will still affect others at some point. This is a limitation of the system as most areas are built. It’s tantamount to someone driving a tank down a road designed for cars and trucks.

          My point is they aren’t in place simply to charge some people more, although of course that is a factor. Each fiber node that splits into RF is built for a reasonable amount of traffic, not to mention the overall amount a ‘plant’ can handle as limited by its total backhaul capacity to a POP (point of presence).

          Your local highways usually handle plenty of traffic but during times of congestion because of rush hour (similar to when everyone finishes dinner and turns on Netflix), a wreck (issue with an amp or storm damage) or construction, the results are slower traffic. All the roads can’t be built to handle this occasional slowdown, it just isn’t practical, therefore we have traffic laws and HOV lanes and so forth to encourage responsible driving. Same with DATA caps at ISPs.

          The rest of your medical rant doesn’t interest me.
          You’re a fatalist and I’m a realist. So be it.

          1. You’re an apologist for your industry. The reason data caps are in place AT ALL TIMES is for profit maximization. ISPs could alert their highest-use customers real time when they are straining network capacity and give them the OPTION real time to pause their data use or pay more. ISPs don’t do this. They try to force people into higher priced data tiers where everyone pays a premium no matter how much network capacity overhead there is. Then ISPs make sure to obscure to the public what capacity there is. There is always spare capacity to deliver ISP-monopoly high definition video streaming services but for some reason, never enough to deliver basic broadband to every building.

            1. Yeah I’m sure you know much more about this than I.
              Also bet you were big on NN and all the scares it was supposed to save us from.

              Same know-it-all mentality that got us ObamaCare….

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