Keeping Americans Connected and Safe | Citizens Against Government Waste

Keeping Americans Connected and Safe

The WasteWatcher

How federal agencies respond to the COVID-19 virus will affect Americans across the country.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as more people begin to telework, conduct school lessons at home, and receive healthcare through telehealth applications.

These additional activities will clearly strain the nation’s broadband capacity.  To ease the burden of being able to connect to work, health care providers and schools during this crisis, the FCC, in partnership with private sector internet service providers (ISPs), has developed a solution for the American people.

As of March 16, 2020, 185 companies have pledged to make certain that consumers across the country will be able to access the internet through FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge.  These providers promise that they will not terminate service to residential or small business customers who cannot pay their bills because of economic disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic; will waive late fees incurred because of economic circumstances related to the pandemic; and will open their Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs to use them.

Two days later, on March 18, 2020, Chairman Pai thanked internet service providers for answering his call to help by “increasing speeds for low-income customers, lifting data caps, and offering 60 days of free services for new low-income customers and students.” The FCC release listed 21 companies that had taken these and other steps, from large ISPs like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Sprint, and T-Mobile to small ISPs like BEK Communications, C Spire, Nelson Cable, Ninestar Connect, Socket Telecom and Starry. 

In response to the continued spread of the virus, President Trump has strongly encouraged individuals to use telehealth options for treatment of illnesses, and announced the expansion of telemedicine for Medicare patients.  Ensuring broadband providers are able to maintain and expand the capacity for this critical need is important to the safety and wellbeing of our nation’s seniors.  The FCC waived gift rules in the Rural Health Care and E-Rate programs of the Universal Service Fund to make it easier for broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning.

As part of President Trump’s whole of government approach, federal agencies are also taking actions to help Americans affected by the COVID-19 crisis include the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Labor.  In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, the private sector is stepping up as well to help the American people.  The efforts by the ISPs to work with the FCC and do their part is a shining example of how everyone can come together for the common good.