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Coronavirus Roundup: Broadband Providers Take the Pledge, T-Mobile Spectrum, Rural Health Care Funding

David Jelke

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Photo of Ajit Pai from February 2018 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday urged broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, according to a press release by the FCC.

The Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:

  • Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:
  • (1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  • (2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  • (3) open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Less than 24 hours after the Chairman’s calls, the following companies have already told Chairman Pai that they are taking the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will implement it as soon as possible:

  • ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone
  • Allstream Business US
  • AlticeUSA
  • Antietam Broadband
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • AT&T
  • BBT
  • BOYCOM Vision
  • Burlington Telecom
  • Cable One
  • Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative
  • CenturyLink
  • Charter
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Citizens Connected
  • Comcast
  • Consolidated Communications
  • Cox Communications
  • Digital West
  • East Ascension Telephone Company
  • Education Networks of America
  • Emery Telecom
  • Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative
  • FirstLight
  • Frontier
  • Google Fiber
  • Grande Communications
  • Granite Telecommunications
  • Great Plains Communications
  • GWI
  • Hiawatha Broadband
  • Hill Country
  • IdeaTek Telcom
  • Inteliquent
  • Lafourche Telephone Company
  • Lakeland Communications
  • Long Lines Broadband
  • Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband
  • Mediacom
  • MetTel
  • Nex-Tech
  • Ninestar Connect
  • Northwest Fiber
  • Orbitel Communications
  • Pioneer Communications
  • Premier Communications
  • Range Telephone Cooperative
  • RCN
  • Reserve Telephone Company
  • Sacred Wind Communications
  • Shawnee Communications
  • Socket Telecom
  • Sonic
  • Sprint
  • Starry
  • TDS Telecom
  • TelNet Worldwide
  • T-Mobile
  • TracFone Wireless
  • Uniti Fiber
  • US Cellular
  • Vast Broadband
  • Verizon
  • Vyve Broadband Investments
  • Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom
  • Wave Broadband
  • West Telecom Services
  • Windstream
  • and ZenFi Networks.  And the trade associations ACA Connects
  • Competitive Carriers of America
  • CTIA
  • INCOMPAS
  • NCTA—The Internet and Television Association
  • NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association
  • USTelecom
  • WISPA

FCC grants T-Mobile spectrum to combat coronavirus

The Federal Communications Commission on Sunday granted Special Temporary Authority to T-Mobile U.S.A. to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz Band to help it meet increased customer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company requested this authority to make it easier for Americans to participate in telehealth, distance learning, and telework, and simply remain connected while practicing recommended “social distancing.” T-Mobile also indicated that this authority would enable it to be prepared to meet the needs of first responders.

“The FCC is dedicated to helping Americans work from home, learn at home, and connect remotely to health care professionals during this crisis,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “I would like to thank all of the companies that agreed to make their spectrum available for this important effort—DISH, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater, and TStar License Holdings."

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau today issued the 60-day special temporary authority to T-Mobile to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band to augment its ability to provide broadband service.  The spectrum that T-Mobile will use was held either in FCC inventory or by other licensees that have consented to T-Mobile’s temporary use of the spectrum.

FCC celebrates increase in rural health care funding

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday adopted an order to fully fund all eligible Rural Health Care Program services for the current funding year with an additional $42.19 million in funding.  This action will help ensure that healthcare providers have the resources they need to promote telehealth solutions for patients.

The total Rural Health Care Program demand for Funding Year 2019 was $719.48 million, which exceeded the $677.29 million in previously available funding.  The Order permits USAC to carry forward additional unused funds from prior years to cover this funding gap and waives the cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments that would result in unnecessary reductions in support for rural health care providers and their patients absent the action the Commission took today.

“This is a critically important step that the FCC took today, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.  COVID-19 presents serious challenges to healthcare providers, and they need every tool in the toolbox at their disposal, particularly the enhanced connectivity that enables them to provide vital healthcare services to the American public.  Today’s Order ensures that rural Americans will have access to the health care services they need.”

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