FCC Announces “Keep America Connected” Pledge

On March 13, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai launched the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which urges broadband and telephone service providers to encourage connectivity for Americans suffering from disruptions caused by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The FCC’s press release lists the Pledge’s three initiatives for service providers: to “not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” to “waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus,” and to “open Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.” These initiatives would be given priority for a period of 60 days.

The press release lists a broad group of cable and mobile phone companies who have taken the Pledge, including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Google Fiber. Chairman Pai began calling these companies on March 12, and within 24 hours they confirmed to the FCC their plans to implement the Pledge as soon as possible.

Pai urges the importance of staying connected during the coronavirus outbreak, saying, “Broadband will enable Americans to 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…I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.”

In addition to the Pledge, Pai urged “broadband providers to relax their data cap policies in appropriate circumstances,” and called for “telephone carriers to waive long-distance and overage fees in appropriate circumstances.” The press release also states the FCC’s continuing efforts to “ensure that changes in usage patterns occurring during the pandemic do not impair network performance.”