As schools suspend classes, business close and companies ask their employees to work from home in order to prevent the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, carriers announced a slate of measures designed to help the general public as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, with provisions granting unlimited smartphone data to all subscribers.
This decision comes after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urged broadband and telecom service providers to take a 60-day "Keep Americans Connected Pledge" to abandon data caps and over-usage charges as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Here's how telecom providers are helping out:
Comcast has increased the speeds (15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps) of its Internet Essentials plan, which is an affordable plan intended for the low-income demographic, from March 16. This includes 60 days of free service, after which they will be charged $9.95 per month.
"Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering two months free to new Internet Essentials customers in response to recent and anticipated emergency measures associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19)," the company's website reads.
AT&T is waiving off any charges that may arise when data limits are exceeded. The carrier usually imposes monthly data caps of 150GB on DSL, 250 GB on fixed wireless, and 1TV on most of its faster wireline services. Over-usage charges are $10 for every additional 50GB used and go up to a maximum of $100 or $200 per month, depending on the plan.
"Many of our AT&T Internet customers already have unlimited home-Internet access, and we are waiving Internet data overages for the remaining customers," AT&T said in a statement provided to Ars Technica.
"Additionally, through Access from AT&T we'll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited income households for $10 a month," an AT&T spokesperson added in a separate emailed statement obtained by CNET.
On Friday, Verizon said it will waive late fees for the next 60 days, and ensure homes and small businesses remain connected while they're "negatively impacted by the global crisis."
"We want to ensure that our customers can continue to use the internet to work, learn, and carry on with their lives as we all address this collective challenge," Hans Vestberg, Verizon CEO, said as part the pledge that involves not terminating services due to their inability to pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic; waiving late fees, and making their Wi-Fi hotspots available to all Americans for the next 60 days.
T-Mobile is providing unlimited data across all of its mobile plans for the next 60 days. This includes T-Mobile as well as Metro customers. It will also offer an additional 20GB of its mobile hotspot service for the next two months and is allowing users to make free international calls to any CDC Level-3 impacted nations around the world.
"Now, more than ever, as school and workplace closures are happening each day, reliable internet connectivity is crucial," T-Mobile said in a blog post-Friday afternoon. The telecom service provider is increasing its data allowance for free to schools and students who use its EmpowerED digital learning programs, adding 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.
Sprint announced on Friday that it'll offer unlimited data for 60 days starting next week. This will come into effect on March 19 and the provider will offer customers an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot data per month for the same time period.
Moreover, the carrier is waiving off late fees from Friday, and will not terminate service if customers are unable to pay their bills due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Like T-Mobile, from Tuesday, it will also allow free international calls for CDC Level 3 countries.
The carrier is also waiving late fees from Friday, and won't terminate services if customers are unable to pay their bill due to the impacts of the coronavirus. By Tuesday, it'll introduce free international calling for CDC Level 3 nations for customers with long-distance calling plans.