Internet Service Providers Lifting Data Caps – As American businesses are forced to shut down because of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), customers are anxious about their bill for Internet access. Data caps, an annoyance in the best of times, suddenly can mean paying additional fees if a family sheltering in place goes over their limit.
Think of it: you’re working from home, videoconferencing over Skype or Zoom, while your kids are playing games and chatting with friends. There’s streamed movies to watch in the evenings. Disney+ and Netflix may be in constant rotation, adding to the bandwidth strain. That’s a lot of data!
In response, some ISPs and cellular service providers are providing relief for customers. Some are merely adhering to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge (PDF), which asks the signees not to terminate a customer’s service for non-payment. Others are removing data caps and lowering bills in response to COVID-19.
All AT&T home Internet Wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, can use unlimited data. AT&T will continue to offer $10/mo Access from AT&T service for qualifying customers. AT&T Prepaid has also added a new $15/mo offer for 2GB of data.
For the next 60 days, AT&T also 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.) AT&T will keep its public Wi-Fi hotspots open to everyone, and has automatically increased hotspot data by 15GB per month per line.
Effective April 8, AT&T waived Guam-based international roaming charges for AT&T Mobility accounts through April 30 and retroactively to April 1. New AT&T TV/DirectTV customers will receive a free year of HBO.
“Google Fi has joined the Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” according to a company spokesman, who has not said to which date it will be effective. Google Fi is also temporarily increasing its limits for full speed data to 30GB per user, for both Flexible and Unlimited Plans. 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 current T-Mobile plans with data will be granted free unlimited data for the next 60 days, excluding roaming. T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers will be given an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot and tethering services for the next 60 days. 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.
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 May 13.
Verizon is also upgrading the data plan on its Verizon Innovative Learning program for Title 1 middle schools from 10GB/month to 30GB/month for the next 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 will waive 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.