Internet companies won't disconnect people for unpaid bills for 60 days, FCC says

Companies also agreed to waive late fees and open Wi-Fi hot spots to Americans who need them.
Image: Miller, a 4th grader at Cottage Lake Elementary, works with his grandmother Brackett as they try to figure out how to navigate the online learning system the Northshore School District will use for two weeks due to coronavirus concerns, at Brackett
Caidence Miller works with his grandmother Chrissy Brackett as they try to figure out how to navigate the online learning system the Northshore School District will use for two weeks due to coronavirus concerns in Woodinville, Wash., on March 11, 2020.Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

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By Claire Atkinson and David Ingram

The Federal Communications Commission has won commitments from phone and broadband providers to support the swelling numbers of adults and children working and attending classes from home, respectively, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of broadband and telecommunications firms signed up to the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which asks connectivity companies to postpone termination of services for the next 60 days on homes or small businesses because of an inability to pay bills because of the outbreak.

Among the companies to endorse the pledge are major and minor internet providers including AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Google Fiber, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asked the FCC to go farther by asking companies to also lift and eliminate data caps and overage charges, and get hospitals connected and make sure there are hot spots for loans to school children.

Internet service providers are beginning to advertise temporary discounts, including for students whose schools are closed because of the coronavirus.

Charter Communications said Friday it would offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who do not already have a broadband subscription. Cox Communications said it was offering one month free service to new customers of its low-income service beginning Monday, and increasing the service’s speed beginning Tuesday.

AT&T said Thursday it was waiving internet data overage fees for customers who did not already have unlimited home internet access. Comcast said it would give its Internet Essentials service away for free for 60 days. (Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

The FCC said Friday that Chairman Ajit Pai was “calling on broadband and telephone service providers to promote the connectivity of Americans impacted by the disruptions caused by the #coronavirus pandemic.”