BALTIMORE, MD—Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh on Wednesday joined a coalition of 27 attorneys general urging the telecommunications industry to strengthen commitments to protect consumers struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to call upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support additional efforts to reduce the economic burden to those customers.
“Access to the internet is vital for individuals and small businesses during this worldwide pandemic,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Additional commitments from the industry to ensure that Americans can remain connected will help protect the health, safety and employment of people and businesses across the nation.”
On March 13, 2020, the FCC announced that many companies had pledged for 60 days to (1) not terminate service to residential or small business customers for nonpayment; (2) waive late fees; (3) open WiFi hotspots to anyone who needs them. These commitments are commendable, but 60 days is not enough, according to Frosh.
In their letter, the attorneys general ask that the companies:
- Extend the FCC pledge an additional 90 days;
- Use fair and reasonable payment plans for customers experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19, including those with past-due balances;
- Reconnect previously disconnected customers, and waive connection fees and penalties;
- Expand data caps as many customers have no choice but to utilize telecommunications services for longer periods and use larger amounts of data; and,
- Educate their customers on the COVID-19 related services they are providing and about COVID-19 related scams.
Attorney General Frosh is joined in signing this letter by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.