Major Internet service providers are scheduled to end their quarantine benefits soon, once again subjecting Americans to data caps and removing protections if they are unable to pay their bills.
The FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge is set to expire on June 30. Companies initially agreed to the pledge and rushed to add benefits. ISPs like CenturyLink, T-Mobile, Verizon, and many others said they would not discontinue service or charge late fees for those unable to pay because of the coronavirus. They also agreed to open their Wi-Fi access points for free. So far, the FCC has not publicly said that it would extend the pledge.
In some ways, ISPs face the same decision as governors in Florida and Texas: end their benefits, which encouraged users to stay home, or continue them for an indeterminate period of time. This could be the last weekend of unlimited data for Comcast Xfinity subscribers and other major ISPs. For many of those who are out of work, ISPs could begin demanding payment for outstanding broadband bills on June 30.
Consumers who have been riding out the quarantine by streaming may also find that their unlimited data expires June 30. On that day AT&T, Comcast Xfinity, Mediacom, and T-Mobile are scheduled to resume normal service, and once again impose data caps. Some ISPs, like Cox, have already terminated some benefits, as its temporary unlimited data program expired in May.
When asked whether Comcast would extend its unlimited data offer, a Comcast spokesman demurred. “Nothing to announce yet,” he said via email. “We’ll keep you posted.”
Editor’s Note: The information below has been adapted from our earlier story, “Which Internet providers are lifting data caps during the coronavirus, and which aren’t.”
All AT&T consumer home Internet customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited data through June 30.
An automatic 10GB of data per month was temporarily added to customers’ capped phone plans, though that appears to have expired on June 24. Mobile hotspot data was increased by 15GB per month for those on unlimited cellular plans, through June 30. Navy personnel on select ships may make free calls to military bases, also through June 30.
AT&T pledged not to terminate the service of any customer who can’t pay their bill, and will waive the fees associated with late payments. (Waivers can be applied for here.) That expires on June 30. The company will continue to waive domestic postpaid wireless plan overage charges for data, voice or text for residential or small business wireless customers. AT&T will also keep its public Wi-Fi hotspots open to everyone, and has automatically increased hotspot data by 15GB per month per line.
New AT&T TV/DirectTV customers will receive a free year of HBO. An AT&T “Summer Camp” collection of content has been added, along with a number of free channels to those customers who didn’t already have them.
Until June 30, CenturyLink said it has committed to waive late fees and to not terminate a residential or small business customer’s service due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19. The company is also suspending data usage limits for consumer customers during this time period. It committed to the FCC’s Keeping Americans Connected Pledge.
Consolidated joined the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, although its support page doesn’t list an expiration date. Consolidated already does not have data caps, the company said.
On March 13, Comcast said it would pause enforcement of its data caps for 60 days, essentially giving all of its customers unlimited data for that period. (Comcast normally gives its Xfinity customers two “grace” months for every 12, allowing them to exceed their data cap without penalty.)
New subscribers to Comcast’s $9.95/month Internet Essentials plan initially received two months free, and speeds were increased to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. Comcast said on June 19 that the “two months free” introductory offer for Internet Essentials will be extended through the rest of the year.
Comcast is also making its Xfinity WiFi service free for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a Comcast subscriber. (Here’s a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots.) Comcast pledged not to to disconnect a customer if they can’t pay their bill, and has waived late fees.
Cox eliminated data usage overages starting March 16 for 60 days. Customers with a 500GB or existing Unlimited plan will receive credits. New subscribers to the Cox Starter Internet plan will be able to sign up without an annual contract and receive 50Mbps download speeds.
Cox previously said that it would not terminate service for any residential or small business customers, and would open its Cox WiFi hotspot network to keep the public connected. That will be extended through June 30.
Cox is offering free support calls and the first month free to its low-cost Internet service, Connect2Compete. (It will be free through July 15, Cox added.) Customers on its Essential plan will see their speeds increased from 30Mbps to 50Mbps, and Starter, StraightUp Internet and Connect2Compete packages will be automatically upgraded to speeds of 50 Mbps as well.
Charter Communications’ Spectrum services do not have data caps, and will not terminate service for home or small business users who can’t pay because of the coronavirus pandemic, through June 30. Charter initially said it would offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days if that household has K-12 students or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. (That offer was extended until June 30.) Charter also said it will open its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.
All of Charter’s existing HBO subscribers, including subscribers in its Spectrum Silver and Gold video packages, have automatically been given access to HBO Max for no additional charge.
Earthlink is participating in the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, and pledged (as of March 16, 2020) for the next 60 days not to terminate the service of any residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as not to charge late payment fees a residential or small business customer may incur because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Earthlink does not offer data caps on its residential service.
Frontier does not have data caps, and this will continue through the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said. It also plans to increase its capacity.
“Google Fi has joined the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” according to a company spokesman, who has not said how long its pledge will be effective. Google Fi temporarily increased its limits for full-speed data to 30GB per user, for both Flexible and Unlimited Plans, as of April 1. After the 30GB limit is reached, a user can pay $10/GB to return to full-speed data for the remainder of the billing cycle.
Google is also extending its billing grace period to 60 days beyond the billing date. All of these measures are effective as of June 24, Google said.
New customers who sign up for Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service can do so for $19.99/mo for 12 months, rather than $29.99/mo. Mediacom’s Connect2Compete service raised its speeds from 10Mbps down/1Mbps up to 25Mbps down/3Mbps up, and made it free for the first 60 days. It also made its Wi-Fi hotspot network publicly accessible, for free. Mediacom has paused monthly data allowances across all broadband service tiers, the company said on June 23. All of these initiatives now extend through August, Mediacom said.
Beginning with the September billing cycle and continuing through the end of 2020, Mediacom will provide up to 100 gigabytes of additional data to any broadband customer that exceeds their monthly data allowance for free, the company said.
Sparklight (formerly Cable One)
Sparklight said on March 13 that it would make unlimited data available on all Internet plans for 30 days. Sparklight extended unlimited data through May 12.
On March 16, the company said it would make its hotspots, accessible in its office parking lots, available for free public use, and added a a 15Mbps internet plan for $10 per month for the next 60 days. On April 28, the company said that it would extend this through June 30, and it pledged not to disconnect users if they can’t pay their bills. Late fees are also waived, as per the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge.
(As of April 1, Sprint has completed its merger with T-Mobile.)
Sprint said on March 13 that it extended its network to include T-Mobile’s network for the next 60 days. Sprint signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and committed to waiving fees and not terminating services if customers were unable to pay because of the coronavirus for the next 60 days. Customers with metered data plans received unlimited data for 60 days and 20GB of hotspot data for the same period.
Customers will be able to place free international calls to CDC-designated Level 3 countries.
Wireless broadband ISP Starry made Starry Connect, a broadband program for public and affordable housing owners, free through May. Normally, the program, which provides 30Mbps symmetrical speeds, is $15 per month. Starry agreed to suspend cancellation of service due to nonpayment due to the coronavirus. It already does not charge additional fees or late fees. Starry’s service does not include data caps, either.
TDS said on March 16 that it would provide free broadband access to customer households with K-12 or college students. (Proof will be required.) TDS also its Wi-Fi hotspots to the public, for free. Other than that, TDS is adhering to the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge only by agreeing not to disconnect customers who can’t pay their bills through June 30.
All current T-Mobile plans with data have been granted free unlimited data through June 30, excluding roaming. T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers will be given an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot and tethering services through June 30 as well. Lifeline customers will be given an extra 5GB of data per month for the next two months.
“We do not have an offer available for 60 days of free service and encourage consumers to be cautious of social media posts that may include fraudulent numbers,” T-Mobile added. The company has also posted resources to help protect customers from scammers.
T-Mobile extended its commitment to the FCC pledge through June 30, continuing to offer support for postpaid wireless, residential and small business customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Verizon will waive late fees and keep residential and small business customers connected if negatively impacted by the global crisis, the company said on March 13. Verizon now says on a new, consolidated COVID-19 response page that that its waiver plan will run until June 30, it added.
Verizon upgraded the data plan on its Verizon Innovative Learning program for Title 1 middle schools from 10GB/month to 30GB/month for two months, effective March 16. There are no data caps on Verizon home Internet subscribers, a company representative said.
On March 23, Verizon updated its coronavirus relief plans, noting that it will waive overage charges, upgrade fees and activation fees. Verizon has also pledged to not terminate service and waive late fees. Verizon is also adding 15GB of 4G LTE data to consumer and small business plans for free, and adding some free overseas calls to some countries. Verizon waiveed the next two months of billing cycles on its Lifeline plan. On April 3, Verizon will launch a new broadband discount program; customers may select any Verizon Fios speed in its Mix & Match plans and receive a $20 discount per month.
Windstream has not announced any relief for customers affected by the coronavirus. The service does not implement data caps, however.
This story was updated on June 26 on 12:21 PM with additional details from Mediacom.