The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it is taking two big steps towards helping people remain connected amid the Coronavirus outbreak. First, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to help ensure no one in the U.S. loses their broadband or telephone connectivity because of the outbreak.
The FCC also gave Special Temporary Authority to T-Mobile USA to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band so it can meet the increased customer demand for broadband during the pandemic. The authority will help T-Mobile make it easier for Americans to take part in tele-health, distance learning and telework as well as remain connected while participating in the recommending, “social distancing.” T-Mobile also indicated the Special Temporary Authority will let the carrier meet first responders’ needs.
Numerous telecom companies take part in Keep Americans Connected Pledge
For the next 60 days, any company participating in the Keep Americans Connected Pledge promises to not terminate service to any residential or small businesses because of their inability to pay their bills because of disruptions the Coronavirus causes. Additionally, companies promise to waive any late fees any residential or small business customers incur due to their pandemic-related economic circumstances and to open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
“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,” Pai said. “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. “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.”
More than 60 broadband and telephone providers have taken the pledge, including Google Fiber, Comcast, AT&T, US Cellular and Verizon.
“I applaud those companies that have already taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” Pai said. “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.”
FCC urges companies to provide quality coverage in all areas
Pai applauded companies that have taken extra steps to ensure that Americans, including low-income families, and veterans stay connected. He also encouraged companies with low-income broadband programs to expand and improve them, and asked companies that don’t currently have such programs in place to adopt them. Additional requests included broadband providers relaxing their data cap policies in appropriate circumstances and telephone carriers waiving their long-distance and overage fees.
T-Mobile helps keep Americans connected during pandemic
The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued the 60-day special temporary authority to T-Mobile to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band to augment its ability to provide broadband service. T-Mobile will use spectrum that was in FCC inventory or that licensees consented to the carrier using.
“The FCC is dedicated to helping Americans work from home, learn at home, and connect remotely to health care professionals during this crisis,” Pai said. “I would like to thank all of the companies that agreed to make their spectrum available for this important effort—DISH, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater, and TStar License Holdings. And, of course, I would like to thank T-Mobile for launching this effort. This temporary authority will help T-Mobile better serve customers who, like all of us, are making significant adjustments to their daily lives to minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19. In the days ahead, I look forward to taking additional actions, in partnership with the private sector, to Keep Americans Connected.”