Wireless carriers and ISPs in March began lifting data caps, expanding service plans, and improving data capacity to keep customers connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the crisis persists, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile will extend their support through the end of June.
Starting with a sweeping work-from-home policy, AT&T recently implemented new policies and guidelines to help protect employees on the front line. As of Monday, 40 percent of company-owned retail stores nationwide will shutter, with more closures expected. Those locations that do remain open will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and follow social distancing guidelines.
Most folks are staying home, avoiding public interaction, and relying on broadband and Wi-Fi to work, learn, and stay entertained. With that in mind, AT&T last week suspended usage caps for home internet customers while keeping public wireless hotspots open, waived late payment fees, and promised to not terminate the service of customers who can’t pay their bill right now.
“I want you to know that AT&T will continue to do everything we can do to help,” CEO Jeff McElfresh wrote in a public letter. “I truly believe that together we can help slow the spread of coronavirus and lessen its impact. And once we do that, it is only a matter of time before we get our communities back to normal.”
As schools and workplaces remain closed and people stay at home, Comcast is lengthening its commitments to Xfinity customers through the summer. That means no disconnects or late fees, free Wi-Fi for everyone, unlimited data for no additional charge, and complementary Internet Essentials for new customers.
“These extended measures will continue to keep Americans safe and ensure that households are equipped for students to learn and stay informed at home as the nation copes with this unprecedented disruption to our daily lives,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said in a statement. “Our services have never been more important, and we’re doing everything we can to keep people connected to the internet.”
In an email to employees, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert shared updates like an extended work-from-home policy, new in-store/curbside pickup, and virtual customer assistance. Meanwhile, all current customers can tap into unlimited high-speed data (legacy plan), an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot data (smartphone plan), or extra data up to 5GB per month (lifeline plan); schools and students using the EmpowerED digital learning platform are also ensured access to at least 20GB of data per month. Plus, anyone can make complimentary international calls to landline (and often mobile) numbers in several countries.
Verizon on Monday announced that it will “neither terminate service nor charge late fees to our postpaid wireless, residential, and small business customers that notify us of their inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
These extensions will not be applied automatically; customers must contact their wireless and internet providers to take advantage of the bargain.