Attorney General Becerra Calls on the Federal Communications Commission and Telecom Industry to Further Protect Consumers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 27 attorneys general, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking them to join the coalition in urging the telecommunications industry to make further commitments to protect consumers during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As a result of COVID-19 and public health measures, Californians are relying heavily on the internet and their phones for a multitude of essential activities, such as work and school. In March, the FCC announced that many telecom companies had pledged to three commitments aimed at protecting consumers’ access to essential telecommunication services for 60 days. Today’s letter asks the FCC to join the coalition’s efforts in urging telecommunications companies to further protect consumers by pledging to five additional commonsense commitments.
“Americans are facing unanticipated financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Attorney General Becerra. “For many families, internet access and cell phones serve as an indispensable lifeline to family, work, healthcare services, schooling, news, and so much more. Today we ask the FCC to join our coalition’s efforts to protect consumers' access to essential telecommunications services.”
On March 13, the FCC announced that telecommunications companies had pledged to do three things for 60 days: (1) not terminate the service of any residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic; (2) waive late fees that any such customers incurred because the of this disruption; and (3) open their Wi-Fi hotspots to any American that needs them. Although this is a commendable step, the coalition seeks FCC’s partnership in urging the telecommunication companies to do more to protect consumers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
In today’s letter, the coalition requests that telecommunications companies:
- Extend the previous 60-day FCC pledge by an additional 90 days;
- Use fair and reasonable payment plans that allow customers experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19 to pay any bills that were accumulated during the public health emergency;
- Reconnect as appropriate and feasible any previously disconnected customers who wish to be reconnected for a minimum of 90 days from May 13, or until August 11, with reconnection fees and penalties waived;
- Expand data caps and waive any overage charges on cell phones for a minimum of 90 days from May 13, or until August 11; and
- Educate their customers about COVID-19 related services that they are providing, and also attempt to protect consumers by informing them of COVID-19 scams.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
A copy of the letter can be found here.