Together in it: Internet Providers & FCC Pledge to keep Americans Connected

In an initiative by Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Ajit Pai urged the internet service providers and called Keep Americans Connected Pledge to help them get through these testing times. This was an initiative to ensure two things, one that the ISPs are not exploiting the situation and second, that the residents practicing quarantine are comforted in this time of health crisis.

The pledge stands true for 60 days and the participating internet provider is bound to abide by following salient features:

  • Late fees Waiver: Owing to this pandemic affecting the residential and small businesses greatly, the companies have pledged to waive off any late fee payment charges from their bills.
  • Wi-Fi open to all: The providers will open Wi-Fi hotspots to every American who might need them.
  • No service Termination: The providers will not terminate services to households who are unable to pay their dues during these 60 days because of the financial disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantine.

Within 24 hours of the chairman’s call, a large chunk of Internet, TV and phone companies pledged their allegiance to the cause including major carriers like AT&T, Altice USA, Charter, CenturyLink, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Cox Communications, Emery Telecom, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Mediacom, Inteliquent, RCN, T-Mobile, Verizon, Windstream, ZenFi Networks, and others. See the full list here. Some companies even chose to go the extra mile, in these testing times. For example, AT&T announced that it has removed overage fees for customers who have subscribed to plans with data caps. Comcast, on the other hand, announced to offer its $10 per month internet plan that was originally designed for low-income households now for free to those who qualify.

With schools and businesses shutting down, the most prominent changes include employees depending on the internet to work remotely, parents needing internet to home school their children and others trying to stay isolated in their homes. The FCC took this step owing to the increased dependence on steady and reliable connectivity. Since, this isolation, which is largely aimed at restricting the spread of this virus, is taking a toll on the businesses and economies as a whole thus making it difficult for the households and small businesses to pay their bills on time.

Most providers have now endorsed the pledge on their respective platforms. Don’t forget to check if your respective provider has agreed to endorse the pledge or not.

What are the Telcos doing?

AT&T announced lifting data caps to support the dependence over the internet and Comcast has decided to increase the speeds of its Internet Essentials package for all the new and existing customers effective immediately, with them becoming the new standard from now onwards. The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be the perfect simulation for stress testing the internet service providers in the US.

So far, none of the telecommunication companies has reported a hit, overload or internal latency issue. As shown in the statements they gave to Business Insider:

Spectrum stated that their infrastructure is made to sustain peak hours, which are usually in the evenings but owing to the recent surge; their system is taking it well during the day-time load too.

Similarly, Altice stated that they have already been investing in the network capacity to match the growing demands of the ‘always online’ consumer. To do so, they already had contingency plans in place that are coming in handy ensuring service continuity in these testing times.

What is the way forward for the consumer?

If all of this is leaving you with many questions, trust me its normal. I got confused too. Here I am trying to summarize some of the initiatives by each provider; however, you can always go back to your provider’s platform and double-check the facts and how they are going to affect you.

The Call Centers are managing to schedule staff while maintaining safe distancing so you may have to hold for longer in some instances. You may have to go through IVRs (Interactive Voice Response) to help you with basic self-help tools.

For Field Installations, most providers are now prioritizing the tasks. The priority being network repair requested by the customers followed by fresh installations for health care providers, government, essential businesses and service providers and first responders. Whereas the rest will be accommodated depending on the availability of resources.

Bill payments are being facilitated by online and in-app payment methods. The services shall not be suspended if you fail to pay the bill owing to insufficient funds. The apps might be showing the latest bills which will be adjusted in due time since the waiver announcement is a recent one.

The ISPs have established procedures to reduce your dependence on a call center representative, so you can manage basic issues yourself. In these unprecedented times, the FCC and Internet Service Providers stand together to meet the current and long-term connectivity needs helping you work through the days.