Keep Americans Connected Pledge
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges that many Americans will face in the coming months, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced the Keep Americans Connected Initiative. In order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked broadband and telephone service providers, and trade associations, to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. So far, more than sort by650 companies and associations have signed the Chairman’s pledge to Keep Americans Connected.
The Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:
Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:
- not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
- open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
Chairman Pai has also urged companies with low-income broadband programs to expand and improve them and those without them to adopt such programs. He called on broadband providers to relax their data usage limits in appropriate circumstances and take steps to promote remote learning and telehealth. See the list of companies going above & beyond and additional steps they are taking.
More Ways the FCC is Keeping Americans Connected
- $200 Million Plan for COVID-19 Telehealth ProgramPDF Download: The FCC has adopted Chairman Pai’s plan for a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing pandemic. Congress appropriated the funds as part of the CARES Act. This will allow the FCC to help health care providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services.
- Connectivity on the Pueblo of Zuni Tribal ReservationPDF Download: The FCC granted access to 2.5 GHz spectrum for the A:SHIWI College & Career Readiness Center to provide broadband service to the Zuni tribe in New Mexico.
- Granting Providers Additional Spectrum to Support Increased Broadband UsagePDF Download: The FCC has granted temporary authority to a number of wireless companies to use additional spectrum in order to ensure that they are able to meet their customers’ needs. It granted Special Temporary Authority to allow 33 wireless Internet service providers in rural communities as well as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and others to use additional spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Helping Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Stay ConnectedPDF Download: The FCC granted AT&T temporary access to use additional spectrum to serve Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands during the pandemic. The Commission under Chairman Pai has placed a special emphasis on connectivity on the islands following the devastating storms that hit them in recent years.
Tweets About the Initiative
- Supporting Telehealth and Remote Learning by Waiving Gift RulesPDF Download: The FCC waived gift rules in the Rural Health Care and E-Rate programs to make it easier for broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning efforts during the pandemic. The waiver will allow healthcare providers, schools, and libraries to accept improved capacity, Wi-Fi hotspots, networking gear, or other equipment or services to support doctors and patients, teachers and students, and librarians and patrons during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Increasing Rural Health Care FundingPDF Download: The FCC adopted an Order to fully fund all eligible Rural Health Care Program services for the current funding year with an additional $42.19 million. This action will help ensure that healthcare providers have the resources they need to promote telehealth solutions for patients during this outbreak. In addition, a March 26 order took a number of actions to assist Program participants, including extending the application window until June 30, 2020, among other administrative deadlines.
- Waiving Lifeline Program Rules to Help Low-Income ConsumersPDF Download: The FCC has taken action to help ensure that no current Lifeline subscribers are involuntarily removed from the Lifeline program during the coronavirus pandemic by waiving several rules that could otherwise result in de-enrollment of subscribers. The FCC has also waived Lifeline program rules to assist program participants potentially affected by the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and aid community efforts to slow its spread.
- Zoom and WebEx Regulatory ReliefPDF Download: The FCC issued a temporary waiver of its access arbitrage rules to Inteliquent, a telecommunications company that carries traffic for two of the nation’s largest conference calling providers, Zoom Video Communications and Cisco WebEx. The massive increase in conference calls made by consumers using Zoom and WebEx to work and attend classes from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would have likely resulted in Inteliquent being deemed an “access-stimulating” carrier under the FCC’s rules.
- Enabling Interpreters to Work From Home to Maintain Services for Disability CommunityPDF Download: The FCC granted Telecommunications Relay Service providers temporary waivers to better enable American Sign Language interpreters to work from home in order to maintain relay services during the current coronavirus pandemic for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, or have a speech disability.
- Connecting with BroadcastersPDF Download: On March 16, Chairman Pai held a conference call with television and radio broadcasters and broadcaster trade associations to thank them for their efforts to educate the American people about the coronavirus pandemic and discuss additional ways that broadcasters can help Americans stay safe and informed, including a Coronavirus Response Toolkit for radio and television stations. He also asked broadcasters to work with cable and satellite operators to avoid service disruptions during the next 60 days.
- Supporting Consumers: The FCC is working to keep Americans informed about the latest COVID-19 phone and text based scams. Learn more and hear scam audio. In addition, the FCC has issued a consumer alert that provides tips to consumers to help them optimize their home networks during the pandemic.
- Incentive Auction Transition Guidance: On March 17, the FCC announced that it would provide broadcasters with appropriate flexibility to address disruptions and issued guidance for stations in Phase 9 of the post-Incentive Auction transition.
- Extending E-Rate DeadlinesPDF Download: To help educational institutions during the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC extended the deadline for E-Rate applications to April 29 for funding year 2020.
Learn more about additional FCC efforts to address COVID-19 at fcc.gov/coronavirus.