Carriers suspend internet data caps during coronavirus
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Comcast are offering additional help.
Corinne ReichertSenior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Comcast has increased the speeds of its Internet Essentials plan aimed at low-income earners as of March 16, Dana Strong, president of Comcast Cable consumer services, said in a blog post Thursday. This involves offering 60 days of free service, after which people will be charged $9.95 per month, and increasing speeds on this plan from 15/2Mbps to 25/3Mbps.
"As our country continues to manage the COVID-19 emergency, we recognize that our company plays an important role in helping our customers stay connected – to their families, their workplaces, their schools, and the latest information about the virus – through the internet," Strong wrote.
AT&T is waiving fees for going over data caps, adding that many of its internet customers already have unlimited data.
"Additionally, through Access from AT&T we'll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited income households for $10 a month," an AT&T spokesperson added in an emailed statement Thursday, March 12.
On Friday, AT&T added all home internet users have access to unlimited data; it will offer Cisco Webex Meetings video conferencing for free for the next 90 days for businesses, universities and schools; customers will be credited for the costs of calling CDC Level-3 countries; its World Connect Advantage plan will be 50% off; and it is supporting the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), which is developing "communication tools for parents, teachers and school boards to help them handle school closures and the increase in virtual learning."
Verizon said Thursday it's "constantly monitoring data usage and the needs of our customers" in an emailed statement. The carrier said it's more focused on ensuring first responders in public safety, healthcare and government agencies have access to networks, which could become more congested from heavier usage than normal. Verizon also pointed out its home broadband plans, including
Home and Fios, already come with unlimited data.
"We want to ensure that our customers can continue to use the internet to work, learn, and carry on with their lives as we all address this collective challenge," Hans Vestberg, Verizon CEO, said as part of a new FCC pledge by carriers March 13 that involves not terminating residential or small business services due to their inability to pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic; waiving late fees; and opening their Wi-Fi hotspots to all Americans for the next 60 days.
T-Mobile announced Friday that it would be providing unlimited data on all mobile plans for the next 60 days. This includes T-Mobile and Metro customers. It will also be providing an additional 20GB of its mobile hotspot service for the next 60 days, and is offering free international calls to any Level 3-impacted nations worldwide.
"Now, more than ever, as school and workplace closures are happening each day, reliable internet connectivity is crucial," T-Mobile said in a blog post Friday afternoon. The carrier is increasing its data allowance for free to schools and students who use its EmpowerED digital learning programs, providing 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.
The carrier is also waiving late fees from Friday, and won't terminate services if customers are unable to pay their bill due to the impacts of the
. By Tuesday, it'll introduce free international calling for CDC Level 3 nations for customers with long-distance calling plans.
Customers who don't pay for mobile hotspot services will get 20GB per month for the next 60 days "soon," Sprint added.