Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure Americans did not lose broadband or phone connectivity due to the Coronavirus outbreak. All four of the major U.S. carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have all taken the pledge, which for the next 60 days states the companies will:
(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.
Along with taking in part of this pledge with more than 60 other telecom companies, the “Big Four” carriers have taken measures to help keep their customers connected during this crisis.
T-Mobile increases network capacity, expands roaming for Sprint customers
T-Mobile announced it would expand capacity for its customers with compatible devices for 60 days by deploying 600 MHz spectrum from multiple companies, including Bluewater, Channel 51, Comcast, DISH, Grain Management affiliate NewLevel, LLC, LB Holdings and Omega Wireless, LLC in the markets where it can be quickly deployed. The carrier also removed smartphone data caps for all of its customers, added more hotspot data, expanded data access for EmpowerED schools and enabled free calling to severely impacted companies.
The carrier also expanded roaming access for Sprint customers to use its network. The extra roaming access to tens of thousands of locations across the U.S. will give schools and families connected to Sprint’s network more coverage and capacity, including in rural areas during the next 60 days.
“In trying times like this, we understand how important it is for people to remain connected – to family and friends, to resources and information, to their jobs via teleworking or schools via virtual classrooms,” T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray said in a statement.
“We take our responsibility to keep our customers connected incredibly seriously.”
AT&T offers continued support for its customers and communities
To help its customers through the outbreak, AT&T suspended its broadband usage caps for its home Internet customers. That means they won’t be charged overage fees while they’re home using more data than usual. The carrier will also continue to offer Internet access for qualifying limited-income households for $10 a month through its Access from AT&T program.
AT&T also is underwriting expenses for a “one-stop” resource center to support eLearning Days from the State Educational Technology Directors Association. The carrier is helping businesses and universities with stand-up virtual offices and classrooms with conference call and video conferencing with Cisco Webex Meetings with AT&T. Businesses can also forward calls to both mobile and landline phones with AT&T IP Flexible Reach.
“Connectivity is always essential to our customers – doctors and nurses, first responders, governments, banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and others delivering vital services,” AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said in a statement. “It’s even more critical during a public health crisis that’s challenging everyone. In fact, as a critical infrastructure provider, AT&T views it as our civic duty to step up and keep our customers and communities connected.”
Verizon delivers customer relief
Verizon announced it would offer free international calling to countries the Center for Disease Control (CD) identified as Level 3 Impact by the Coronavirus through the end of April. Beginning on March 19, wireless prepaid customers will get an extra 300 minutes to call Level 3 countries. Verizon also waived fees on new lines of service and upgrade fees beginning on March 18. This applies to all purchases and service-only applications made through Verizon digital channels.
Additionally, Verizon tripled its monthly data allowance for its Verizon Innovative learning schools and committed $10 million to nonprofits geared towards to supporting student and first responders.
“Our customers — including critical government and public safety agencies — rely on us for proven reliability” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement. “I want to thank our dedicated Verizon employees who continue to work tirelessly, day in and day out, to ensure our essential communications services are available to our customers so they can stay connected where and when they need it most.”