WASHINGTON — On Friday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai called on internet service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to help people in the United States “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.”
According to Pai, dozens of ISPs have already taken the pledge. On Twitter, he “exhorted” companies to take measures regarding low-income broadband programs, data-cap policies, long-distance and overage fees, connectivity to schools and libraries, connectivity to hospitals and health-care providers, and network performance.
Pai’s action follows Free Press’ call on Thursday for ISPs to suspend all data caps and overage charges, and to pause all disconnects for non-payment of broadband fees during the pandemic. Free Press also asked that ISPs eliminate all eligibility requirements for any low-income targeted plans during the pandemic. In addition, Free Press urged ISPs to waive all billing for low-income households, seniors, furloughed workers and households with public-school students who have been sent home due to school closures.
FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks called for ISPs to take similar measures to alleviate the costly burden of broadband connectivity.
Free Press Campaign Director Candace Clement made the following statement:
“We’re glad to see Chairman Pai join Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks, many members of Congress, and public-interest groups like Free Press in calling on our nation’s ISPs to step up in this time of national emergency.
“The pledge for ISPs to act as other utilities do and halt disconnections during this emergency is welcome, and will help many struggling families. But there’s much more that all ISPs can and should do.
“While a few large ISPs have decided to drop their arbitrary and unreasonable data caps and overage fees, many have not. Millions of people in the United States are still impacted, including those using smaller ISPs that are not nationally known brands.
“We call on all the major ISP trade organizations to urge their members to halt disconnects, eliminate caps and overage fees, and offer low-cost service packages and other forms of relief to internet users. Trade organizations like ACA, NTCA, RWA, along with NCTA, USTA and CTIA, have a great deal of influence that they should exercise.
“There’s also much more that policymakers and the FCC itself can do. Such actions include increasing monthly allotments for Lifeline wireless plans, approving experimental licenses to increase public Wi-Fi capacity, and finally taking seriously the potential for traffic spikes and snarls at internet-exchange points.
“The time to act is now.”