By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Major U.S. wireless firms said on Monday they will extend a commitment through June 30 not to cancel service or charge late fees to customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said major wireless and internet providers – including Verizon Communications, Comcast, AT&T Inc, T-Mobile US Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Fiber – had agreed not to terminate service for subscribers for 60 days. In total, more than 700 companies have now agreed to the voluntary measures.
Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and T-Mobile all said on Monday they will extend the voluntary commitments that were set to expire in mid-May.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had disclosed the voluntary commitments in March after talks with carriers and said they had also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them.
A group of 24 state attorneys general last week asked carriers to extend the voluntary commitments until Aug. 11.
Cox Communications also said on Monday it was extending its commitment not to cancel service or charge late fees through June 30 and to keep open its Cox Wi-Fi hotspots.
U.S. Cellular said it will extend through July 31 some consumer actions including providing some customers with extra hotspot data and eliminating data limits on high-speed internet plans.
Comcast said in addition to extending the commitment through June 30 and making its Wi-Fi hotspots available for anyone who needs them, it would extend a pause in its data plans to give all customers unlimited data for no additional charge.
Other major U.S. internet companies are expected to announce this week they too are extending commitments through June – and past the end of the school year – as more than 50 million American children remain at home, with most attending schools virtually, people briefed on the matter said.
In addition, tens of millions of Americans are working from home. Internet firms and the FCC say the internet is performing well.
In some instances, consumers must notify providers they cannot pay their bills because of the coronavirus pandemic in order to avoid disconnection or late fees.
The FCC did not comment but said on Monday it was working with the Education Department to promote the use of $16 billion in funding recently approved for remote learning, including more than $13 billion in grants that elementary and secondary schools can use for purposes including remote learning.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Tom Brown and Muralikumar Anantharaman)