Union, consumer advocacy groups call for telecom giants to ensure internet access as coronavirus spreads

Union, consumer advocacy groups call for telecom giants to ensure internet access as coronavirus spreads
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The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and a group of consumer advocacy groups sent letters to the country's largest providers on Tuesday asking them to do more to ensure internet access as the coronavirus spreads.

The letters sent to Altice, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon ask for data caps to be lifted and for fees for crossing caps to be waived, among other things.

The union and consumer groups acknowledged that some companies have taken good first steps but urged more action to deal with internet service strain as more and more people are asked to work from home and classes are moved online.

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"While these are excellent first steps, the telecommunications industry must do more," they wrote. "Implementing the policies outlined above will help protect consumers, facilitate connectivity during this time of crisis, and provide information to better plan for future public health emergencies and natural disasters."

Many internet service providers have signed on to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) "Keep Americans Connected Pledge," agreeing not to terminate service to customers who are unable to pay their bills due to "disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic" over the next 60 days.

Signees have also agreed to waive late fees and open up their Wi-Fi hotspots to Americans who need them.

More than 180 service providers, including the 10 singled out in the CWA's letters, had signed on to the pledge as of Tuesday.

The Hill has reached out to the named companies for comment on the letters.

A spokesperson for CenturyLink told The Hill that the company is complying with the FCC pledge and suspending data usage limits.

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A spokesperson for Comcast pointed The Hill to the company's announcement that it will offer unlimited data for free.

T-Mobile is removing smartphone data caps and deploying more spectrum to expand network capacity in some markets, according to a spokesperson.

A spokesperson for Altice said that the company does not have data limits and is offering some free service upgrades for 60 days in addition to complying with the FCC pledge.