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Telecom Companies Make FCC Pledge to Keep Service On (1)

March 13, 2020, 4:28 PMUpdated: March 13, 2020, 5:25 PM

Dozens of telecom companies, including the nation’s biggest phone carriers and cable providers, have agreed to continue service to customers who have trouble paying bills as a result of the coronavirus, the Federal Communications Commission said Friday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he has asked the nation’s telecom providers to commit to a pledge to continue service, waive any late fees, and open up Wi-Fi hotpots to people in need. The commitment not to turn off service is for 60 days and applies to both phone and internet.

Major companies that agreed to the pledge include AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., T-Mobile US Inc., Comcast Corp., and Cox Communications Inc., the FCC said. Regional and local telecom providers have also agreed to the pledge, as have several industry trade groups, he said.

“I applaud those companies that have already taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” Pai said. “They are stepping up to the plate and taking critical steps that will make it easier for Americans to stay connected during this pandemic and maintain much-needed social distancing.”

Pai, who reached out to carriers and trade groups on Thursday, urged other companies to also take the pledge.

“This may be a difficult time for our nation, but if we all work together, I am confident that we can rise to the challenge,” he said.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the pledge is a “welcome first step” but that more measures should be taken to help students continue online classes, ensure telehealth services are available, and eliminate data caps and overage fees.

“We need to expand these pledges and make adjustments to FCC programs so that even more Americans can get online during this crisis at little or no cost,” Rosenworcel said in a statement.

(Updates with new reporting )

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com, Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com