CWA, consumer advocacy groups urge broadband CEOs to lift data caps, waive fees

CWA and consumer advocacy groups sent a letter today to major broadband CEOs urging them to lift data caps, waive data cap fees, and take other steps to help the American public stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and facilitate access to essential communications services for all. Groups signing the letter include Common Cause, Consumer Reports, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Media Justice, National Consumer Law Center, National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America's Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, The Utility Reform Network, and United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

“The telecommunications industry must do more to protect consumers and facilitate connectivity during the novel coronavirus pandemic,” the organizations wrote.

“Connectivity is essential during times of crisis, and during an infectious disease crisis in particular,” the organizations wrote. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have recommended ‘social distancing,’... This guidance will require a significant shift to tele-work, tele-medicine, and tele-education. This shift necessitates far more bandwidth than under normal circumstances.”

The groups make the following recommendations for Altice, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon: 

Lift all data caps and waive all data cap fees for all customers -- wired and wireless -- including the current practice of throttling the capacity of “unlimited” plans after customers exceed certain data use thresholds;

Remove barriers to immediate access to service plans, including any waiting period to enroll (e.g., 90-day period without a broadband subscription) and the disqualification of those with past or current arrearages with the company; and

Share with the FCC data collected on the number of customers served, by what packages, and where expanded services were provided during the emergency, especially data on the impacts of raised data limits on service quality and network management or any challenges raised by waiving waiting periods. This information can help the FCC manage connectivity challenges associated with the pandemic, including identification of critical-need communities and network weaknesses, and help the government prepare for future crises. The FCC should also make this information available to the public, with appropriate safeguards for privacy and data use, to help communities address the pandemic with the best available data.

“In this collective time of crisis, we are asking broadband CEOs to show leadership by lifting data caps, waiving fees, and doing everything within their power to help people connect to the world from home and stop the spread of COVID-19. People’s lives are depending on it,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

Links:

CWA and consumer advocacy groups urge broadband CEOs to lift data caps and waive fees (CWA, Mar. 16, 2020)