Coronavirus and Connectivity
Sen Warner Leads Colleagues in Urging ISPs to Suspend Service Terms Affecting Telepresence Services During Coronavirus Outbreak
Sen Mark Warner (D-VA) led 17 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs) calling on the companies to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. In the letter, sent to the CEOS of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Sens call on companies to suspend restrictions and fees that could limit telepresence options.
AT&T is waiving home-Internet data caps during the coronavirus pandemic. AT&T imposes monthly data caps of 150GB on DSL, 250GB on fixed wireless, and 1TB on most of its faster wireline services. Overage charges are $10 for each additional 50GB, up to a maximum of $100 or $200 per month, depending on the plan. AT&T provides unlimited data to customers when they subscribe to the gigabit-speed tier or when they purchase both Internet and TV service. There's also an option to pay $30 extra per month for unlimited data.
As schools and businesses ask people to stay home to reduce the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, I wanted to share some thoughts about how I expect broadband Internet access networks will handle the change and increase in broadband traffic in residential areas. Our first reaction is that, as with so many areas with network effects, the rich will get richer.
Comcast Increases Access to and Speeds of Internet Essentials to Support Americans Through Coronavirus Pandemic
As our country continues to manage the COVID-19 emergency, we recognize that our company plays an important role in helping our customers stay connected – to their families, their workplaces, their schools, and the latest information about the virus – through the Internet. We also know that for millions of low-income Americans who don’t have Internet service at home, this uncertain time is going to be even more difficult to manage. As schools and businesses close and families are encouraged, or even mandated, to stay home, Internet connectivity becomes even more important.
Americans are going to need broadband in their homes—to help them telework to keep the economy strong; to help them understand medical information, and potentially connect with medical care via telemedicine; and to help our youngest learners continue to grow. The Federal Communications Commission must join that effort immediately with emergency steps that bring broadband into homes in communities impacted by COVID-19.
To enable social distancing, institutions including schools, governments, workplaces, and libraries are moving many of their daily functions online. The successes — and failures — of these efforts can tell us a lot about how tech policy is (or isn’t) working in America, and where it needs to go. The biggest hurdle is access to broadband at home.
If we have to suspend or otherwise modify political campaigning because of coronavirus, social media will become even more important and the fissures it creates even more painful. We should expect the platform companies such as Facebook and Google to step up to this national emergency—but can we?
For years, US broadband providers have taken advantage of a lack of US competition by imposing arbitrary and expensive broadband usage caps and "overage fees." With the country facing a massive surge in videoconferencing and home learning thanks to the coronavirus epidemic, experts say it’s time for broadband providers to suspend these costly, unnecessary restrictions. Thanks to limited competition, affordable broadband is just out of reach for many US residents.
FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel Calls On FCC To Take Aggressive Action To Assist With Coronavirus Response
The coronavirus is already exposing hard truths about the digital divide, but the Federal Communications Commission has the power to help. Nationwide this crisis means that we are going to explore the expansion of telework, telehealth, and tele-education. The FCC should immediately convene the country’s broadband providers to discuss what they are doing right now to provide service for Americans.
As the coronavirus pushes more human activities online, it's forcing a reckoning with the often-invisible digital divide. Both the government and private sector are moving to online systems and operations, but not everyone in the US can easily follow. "Coronavirus, without some immediate changes being made, is certainly going to exacerbate the haves and have nots for who's digitally connected," said Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.