'Keep Americans Connected' pledge means internet access for all for 60 days

PMG FILE PHOTO - Students in Beaverton work on computer coding at a school library. More than 40 internet companies have pledged not to disconnect internet service and provide wireless hot spots for those who need them, giving students greater access to online learning opportunities while schools are closed. CenturyLink and more than 40 other internet and phone companies announced that for the next 60 days, they won't disconnect service for residential or small business accounts, and will suspend data usage limits and waive late fees due to economic hardships incurred because of COVID-19.

The announcement came as part of a Keep Americans Connected pledge that several companies signed in tandem with the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC announced the initiative on March 13.

FCC PHOTO - Ajit Pai"Yesterday, in multiple phone calls with broadband and telephone service providers and trade associations, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai emphasized the importance of keeping Americans connected as the country experiences serious disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak," the commission stated in a news release. "And in order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked them to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge."

The pledge could have major impacts on low-income households across the country that rely on a connection to television and the internet to stay informed about new public health mandates issued by government officials. It could also fill a gap in internet access for families with school-aged children who don't currently have access to high-speed internet to complete online homework as schools close down amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Keep Americans Connected pledge also means companies will open WiFi hotspots to anyone who needs them.

In Oregon, CenturyLink pledged not to enforce data usage limits or charge late fees on customer accounts. The company also promised not to terminate service "due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19."

"At CenturyLink, we know our customers are counting on us to keep our network running so our children can continue to learn, and the world's businesses can continue to run efficiently," an announcement from the company stated. "We stand ready, willing and able to meet our customers' near-term and long-term needs and are prepared to ensure traffic flows smoothly across our network, regardless of increased demand. We recognize that high-speed internet service plays a crucial role in the everyday lives of our customers."

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