Telecoms to reinstate data caps after lifting them for shelter-in-place

ByMichael Finney KGO logo
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Telecoms to reinstate data caps after lifting them for shelter-in-place
At the urging of state and federal governments, telecom companies lifted their data caps as more people relied on the internet to work, learn, and entertain themselves. Now, data caps are being re-instituted, even though many are still staying at home.

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you're among the lucky few who can work from home, chances are you're eating up a lot of your data in Zoom meetings. All that extra time spent at home streaming videos can be a data hog.

Many of the protections put in place to help consumers get through the pandemic are about to expire. People working at home and those struggling to pay their bills may be among the first to be hit.

Waivers on data caps and late fees expire on Tuesday, leaving consumers with little protection from higher bills.

Companies such as Comcast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint voluntarily gave many of their customers unlimited data to help out -- but that's over on Tuesday.

Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network said that should not have been allowed to happen.

"Make sure that people have access to essential communications to go to work, to go to school, to go see their doctors, and everything else to be able to shelter in place and keep this virus from spreading," said Toney.

Customers are advised to monitor their data usage to avoid paying overage fees and penalties.

Companies such as Verizon had eliminated late fees and promised not to cut off anyone's service. That's also expiring on Tuesday.

"Look, it is not right for communication companies to profit off of a health crisis that requires people to use more data," Toney said.

AT&T tells 7 On Your Side anyone having problems paying a bill should contact them to make payment arrangements.

Comcast says its original promise was intended to get families through the school year.

Verizon says families who signed up for its original program will automatically be put into its repayment program.

T-Mobile did not respond to us before our deadline.

All the companies extended their offers at the urging of state and federal regulators.

Matt Wood of the group Free Press said he advocates for a free and open internet. He says voluntary measures are not enough.

"The key thing is having some kind of public oversight at the state and federal level, frankly, and making sure that this essential service is something where people have access at an affordable rate and have some rights they can look to their government to enforce," said Wood.