As life in the coronavirus pandemic moves increasingly into the online sphere, with adults telecommuting and students telelearning in the name of social distancing, the need for bandwidth and high speeds has never been more present. Companies are taking steps to close the gap for communities that don’t have those tools readily available.
In the Monadnock Region, broadband speeds are scarce enough on the ground, to the point which municipalities have contracted with internet providers to bond funds to build the infrastructure to improve speeds. Now with more people than ever trying to log on, for work and for school, internet providers are stepping up to offer higher speeds to those most in need. Namely, students, teachers and people on low incomes.
On March 12, the Federal Communications Commission urged broadband and telephone providers to take a pledge to commit to three pledges for 60 days. The first to not terminate services to any residential or small business who are unable to pay bills due to the disruption, waive late fees, and to open their WiFi hotspots to anyone in need.
Internet providers jumped on board to sign the pledge, including local providers such as Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular, TracFone Wireless, T-Mobile and dozens of others.
Internet providers have begun the process of making good on increasing access to WiFi hotspots, rolling out protocols for getting connected.
Adam Reed, of TDS, said in an interview Wednesday that he’s seen customers taking advantage of the offer.
“In the last 48 hours, [I made] a month’s worth of internet connections,” he said.
TDS is offering connections for students, from kindergarten to college, as well as educators free for 60 days. The company will send a bill, but also simultaneously issue a credit. All residents have to do is announce their intention when they first call. After the 60 days, if the residents can’t or don’t want to continue the service, they don’t have to pay anything to get the service removed.
Comcast, which also serves the Monadnock Community, has announced it’s opening its WiFi hotspots, allowing phone customers unlimited data, and offering 60 days of its internet essentials package to income-qualified customers, and increasing its offered speeds to broadband-level service for the next two months.
“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected. Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a March 13 statement. “That’s why I’m asking all broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.”
The FCC has also recommended companies provide broadband-level speed, which the FCC defines as at least 25 megabits of download speed per second, and 3 megabits of upload speed, and waive long-distance and overage fees where it’s appropriate.
Contact your internet provider or check their website for further information about their approach to service during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.
- The Year the Internet Thought I Was MacKenzie Bezos – WIRED
- Easy ways to get the fastest internet connection possible in your home – Komando
- Elon Musk says Starlink internet private beta to begin in roughly three months, public beta in six – TechCrunch
- Verizon is canceling home internet installations during the pandemic – The Verge
- Ethiopia’s internet shutdowns are disrupting millions of lives – Quartz Africa
- How to check if your service provider is throttling your internet – CNET
- 8 charts on internet use around the world as countries grapple with COVID-19 – Pew Research Center
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- Welcome (Back) to the Appointment Internet – New York Magazine