March 18, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) applauded the moves made by several major internet service providers (ISPs) that he requested last week to better support remote technologies for Americans in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, King and 17 of his Senate colleagues urged CEOs of eight major ISPs to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. The letter also encouraged the companies to take proactive steps to provide under- and unserved households with broadband access, including through access to broadband hotspots.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented challenge to our society, and we need all hands on deck to help support the health, safety, and economies of our communities,” said Senator King. “I’m pleased to see some of the nation’s leading internet service providers stepping up to make sure Americans across the country can access the digital tools they need to continue learning and working. I encourage providers to continue to work to increase access to the internet and hope to see more ISPs follow in their footsteps in the days ahead. Social distancing is a vital tool to slow the spread of coronavirus, and telepresence services can help individuals remain productive as we take necessary steps to flatten the curve.”
Since receiving the Senators’ letter, AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink, Comcast, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and Cox, among others, have each announced a variety of new policies to help ensure Americans have reliable access to online services during the outbreak of COVID-19, such as service upgrades, fee waivers, free access to Wi-Fi hotspots, more affordable plans, free support services, and more. AT&T, CenturyLink and Comcast announced they would temporarily suspend data caps, along with other service changes. In response to the letter, Charter (which emphasized that its plans do not have data caps) announced that it would provide 60 days of free broadband to households with K-12 or college students currently without service – and, drawing from the letter’s recommendations, pledged to work with school districts to make eligible households aware of the offer. T-Mobile announced that it would provide unlimited smartphone data to all current subscribers and increase the data allowance to schools and students using their digital learning programs. Cox announced that it would changes to its Connect2Compete plan for low-cost broadband, including increasing speeds and providing one month of free service to new customers. Sprint announced it would provide all its subscribers with unlimited data for 60 days, along with other billing and service changes to cushion the impact of COVID-19. Verizon (whose wireline operations do not include caps) announced it would increase capacity and accelerate network investments, among other billing and service changes.
Senator King has strongly pushed for proactive efforts to protect global public health amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the last several days, he has introduced legislation to ensure free coronavirus testing, urged the President to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to maximize telework, and joined a group of his colleagues to call on the Federal Communications Commission to temporarily use E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home.