Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Representative Jerry McNerney (D-CA) have joined forces and sent letters to nine internet service providers (ISPs) questioning their commitment to consumers, amid ISPs raising prices and imposing data caps during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the last ten months, internet service became even more essential as many Americans were forced to transition to remote work and online school. Broadband networks seem to have largely withstood these massive shifts in usage,” wrote Pallone, Doyle and McNerney. “Unfortunately, what cannot be overlooked or underestimated is the extent to which families without home internet service—particularly those with school-aged children at home—have been left out and left behind.”
The lawmakers explained that after Energy and Commerce committee members wrote to these same companies in March to express how crucial it was that families have reliable, affordable broadband during this historic time, almost all announced plans to introduce or expand affordable service offerings, free months of service, opening of Wi-Fi hotspots, and the waiver of data caps. They likewise announced they were taking a voluntary pledge, led by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to keep customers connected regardless of whether they fall behind on payments.
Since then, however, some of those companies have raised prices and imposed or expanded data caps on consumers. “This is an egregious action at a time when households and small businesses across the country need high-speed, reliable broadband more than ever but are struggling to make ends meet,” the legislators wrote.
As part of their ongoing oversight efforts, the Committee is demanding answers to a series of questions, including:
• Did the company participate in the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge?
• Has the company increased prices for fixed or mobile consumer internet and fixed or phone service since the start of the pandemic, or do they plan to raise prices on such plans within the next six months?
• Prior to March 2020, did any of the company’s service plans impose a maximum data consumption threshold on its subscribers?
• Since March 2020, has the company modified or imposed any new maximum data consumption thresholds on service plans, or do they plan to do so within the next six months?
• Did the company stop disconnecting customers’ internet or telephone service due to their inability to pay during the pandemic?
• Does the company offer a plan designed for low-income households, or a plan established in March or later to help students and families with connectivity during the pandemic?
• Beyond service offerings for low-income customers, what steps is the company currently taking to assist individuals and families facing financial hardship due to circumstances related to COVID-19?
Rep. Jerry McNerney serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.