The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is doing their part to help Americans Stay Connected during COVID-19, including:
- Waiving – on a temporary basis – certain rules related to universal service fund programs, including those that support low-income consumers and schools and libraries (e.g., temporarily lifted the rules preventing providers from giving devices to rural health care providers and schools and libraries; temporarily lifted rules related to verifying low-income consumers enrolled in the Lifeline program; and revised tariffs to allow certain providers to waive certain fees for customers experiencing economic challenges).
- Granting the major national wireless providers temporary access to spectrum (the range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used to transmit sound, data, and video across the country) to ensure their networks could handle increased traffic, and granted temporary access to spectrum to certain wireless internet providers to meet the increased demand for rural Americans, and
- Approve a $200 million program to immediately fund telecommunications services, devices, and broadband connectivity to health care providers to deliver telehealth programs responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, Congress and the FCC have encouraged communications companies to offer flexibility for consumers and many have responded. FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” asks that for a period of sixty days, starting on March 13, 2020, that companies agree to:
- Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers due to their inability to pay bills due to coronavirus disruptions;
- Waive late fees that residential and small business customers incur because of hardships due to coronavirus; and
- Open their WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them.
More information can be found in the April 2020 Key Information on Telecommunications Connectivity during the COVID-19 Pandemic fact sheet prepared by Committee on Energy and Commerce.