House Commerce Committee Urges Communications Providers to Address COVID-19 Connectivity Challenges

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Rep Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09) led a letter to nine major communications providers asking them to outline any potentials plans they are considering implementing to address connectivity challenges related to COVID-19, particularly for individuals who are impacted by the digital divide. Congressman McNerney was joined by 11 other Democratic Members on the House Commerce Committee, including the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA-14).

In the letter to Cox Communications, Altice USA, Frontier Communications, T-Mobile, Charter Communications, AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon Communications, and Comcast Cable Communications, the Members wrote, “As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our districts and the country, we are concerned about the impact it will have on Americans across the country, especially those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide.” The letter continues, "

we request that you provide us with a written description of your plans, including associated timelines and specific dates regarding your efforts to address, at a minimum, the following issues:

  • Ways you are working with schools to ensure that students without access to broadband service at home will be able to participate in remote learning during school closures;
  • Steps you are taking to connect those without broadband service at home, particularly with regard to low-income individuals and those who live in areas highly affected by COVID-19;
  • Ways you are working with partners in private industry to identify connectivity needs unique to this threat, and solutions for addressing those unique needs;
  • Steps you are taking to assist individuals facing financial hardship due to circumstances related to COVID-19 who are unable to pay their bills for internet and phone service, including by extending bill due dates, waiving late fees, and providing service at no cost for a short duration;
  • Ways to address the potential for increased customer service calls if more people are relying on home broadband service for an extended period of time; and
  • How to ensure that a significant shift of broadband usage from enterprise networks to residential connections for an extended period of time will not cause debilitating strain on the network.”

The following Members joined Rep. McNerney in sending the letter: Rep. Mike Doyle (PA-14), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At-Large), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-01), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At-Large).

Rep. McNerney Leads E&C Colleagues in Urging Communications Providers to Address COVID-19 Connectivity Challenges