The UK’s major broadband providers have decided to lift their data caps during the coronavirus pandemic in order to protect vulnerable people from having to pay additional and unexpected charges for exceeding their data limits.
BT (including EE), Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and Kcom have all lifted their limits on fixed-line broadband. Many of these deals were already advertised as “unlimited,” although in reality unlimited means a high data allowance with hidden restrictions. Changes in advertising rules means companies in the UK can no longer hide these maximum allowances.
As The Guardian reports, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time. It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”
However, questions are still raised on the details of these company’s commitments. It’s unclear whether there will be fairer treatment for those struggling to pay internet bills, and with offers including “data boosts at low prices,” it has not yet been stated how much these will cost. Moreover, people waiting for their broadband to be repaired are said to be being given alternative means of communication, yet there was reportedly little detail on what that entails, the BBC notes.
In the United States, AT&T has lifted its data cap during the pandemic, and Democratic commissioners on the FCC are demanding others do the same. “Where data caps are in place, we need to explore how those limitations can be eliminated,” FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We also need to understand how broadband providers will keep workers safe and keep their services running for Americans who will increasingly rely on broadband connectivity for work, healthcare, and education.”