FCC chair Ajit Pai has made it official. He has extended the FCC's voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge until June 30.
It was one of the worse-kept secrets since a host of major players had been announcing they were extending their pledges to June 30, and one even signaled it was the FCC's new pledge, which it was/is.
That is because the chairman got on the phone with ISPs earlier this week to relay his request for the extension. While the national stay-at-home directive is being lifted today (April 30), states are following their own schedules for allowing folks back to work and to gather, though with social distancing.
Pai said Thursday (April 30) that ISPs representing the "vast majority" of broadband and phone subs have already agreed to the extension.
Back in March, Pai asked ISPs to pledge, for the ensuing 60 days, "to (1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; (2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and (3) open their WiFi hotspots to any American who needs them."
But that was back when President Trump was signaling the economy might open back up in Mid-April, which did not happen.
The FCC has also been extending various waivers as it became clear the new abnormal would be around for a while longer.
“Hundreds of providers have stepped up to the plate to keep Americans connected to communications services in this time of need,” said the chairman. “This includes the largest and some of the smallest providers across the country. I salute them for making broadband available to Americans who increasingly rely on it for work, school, healthcare, and communicating with loved ones. And given our nation’s current situation, I’m urging these companies to extend these important offerings—uninterrupted service, waiving of late fees, and continued availability of WiFi hotspots—until June 30."
While the FCC encouraged all ISPs to extend their pledges, it recognized that some providers, particularly smaller ones and in rural areas, may not be able to do so due to "financial challenges."
The FCC asked them to contact the FCC to let them know they were opting out.
“All ACA Connects members have gone above and beyond their normal business practices in past months to keep their customers and communities connected during the COVID-19 emergency, and for many this included taking the FCC’s initial pledge," said Matt Polka, president of ACA Connects, which represents those smaller, often rural, ISPs. "ACA Connects members, who typically live in the communities they serve and have family and friends as customers, are guided by their hometown American values.
“They have always stuck to this path, and they will continue to do so, which for many includes continuing to abide by the FCC pledge. At the end of the day, all ACA Connects members will be looking out for their customers and communities, consistent with their long-standing practices and values, not only until June 30, but also far beyond," said Polka.