Bennet, Colleagues Previously Called on Companies to Temporarily Suspend Data Caps and Other Policies that Could Limit Telework, Online Education, Telehealth, and More
Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded recent announcements by several major internet service providers (ISPs) that they will adopt practices that will better accommodate the use of remote technologies that students, workers, and public health officials will rely upon during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. On Thursday, Bennet joined 17 of his colleagues in writing to the nation’s eight largest providers, calling on them to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. With disruptions likely to reveal the full extent of the nation’s broadband gaps, they also call on the companies to provide free or at-cost broadband options for students affected by the virus who otherwise lack broadband access for online learning during the outbreak.
“The coronavirus outbreak is already creating an unprecedented need to accommodate telework and online education, and as more and more Americans practice social distancing, that need will only grow,” said Bennet. “I’m glad to see many of the leading companies respond to our letter and take these much-needed steps to accommodate the needs of Americans during this public health crisis. I urge the providers who have not yet taken such steps to do so immediately and provide some assurance to working Americans and students during these uncertain times.”
Since receiving the senators’ letter, AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink, Comcast, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and Cox, among others, have each announced a variety of new policies to help ensure Americans have reliable access to online services during the outbreak of COVID-19, such as service upgrades, fee waivers, free access to Wi-Fi hotspots, more affordable plans, free support services, and more. AT&T, CenturyLink and Comcast announced they would temporarily suspend data caps, along with other service changes. In response to the letter, Charter (which emphasized that its plans do not have data caps) announced that it would provide 60 days of free broadband to households with K-12 or college students currently without service – and, drawing from the letter’s recommendations, pledged to work with school districts to make eligible households aware of the offer. T-Mobile announced that it would provide unlimited smartphone data to all current subscribers and increase the data allowance to schools and students using their digital learning programs. Cox announced that it would changes to its Connect2Compete plan for low-cost broadband, including increasing speeds and providing one month of free service to new customers. Sprint announced it would provide all its subscribers with unlimited data for 60 days, along with other billing and service changes to cushion the impact of COVID-19. Verizon (whose wireline operations do not include caps) announced it would increase capacity and accelerate network investments, among other billing and service changes.