WASHINGTON, March 18, 2020— Representatives from three internet service providers relayed their associations’ respective progress on meeting Americans’ mounting hunger for broadband during quarantine at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Tuesday.
When asked about the Keep America Connected Pledge that hundreds of ISPs signed hours after it was released by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, Michael Romano, senior vice president for policy at the NTCA—the Rural Broadband Association, announced that 110 of the 185 ISPs that signed the pledge are NTCA members.
Romano said that the central elements of the of the pledge, which include waiving missed broadband payments for the next 60 days and opening up Wi-Fi spots to the general public, “are already inherent in [our member companies’] DNA.”
Romano also expressed concern that Americans living in rural areas and suburbs will be less likely to take advantage of the new Wi-Fi openings since they are removed from urban hubs where broadband has received stronger investment.
Other panelists commented on the data loads they have observed so far, including Angie Kronenberg, chief advocate and general counsel for INCOMPAS. She said that her association’s members have not yet to deal with any major broadband failures as of Tuesday, nor have they heard of any.
Wireless Internet Service Providers Association CEO Claude Aiken said that the average broadband usage by household has increased by 30 to 60 percent.
WISPA providers have also observed that peak broadband usage, which usually occurs from 6 p.m. to midnight, has “spread out throughout the day,” probably on account of the rise in teleworkers.
Utopia Fiber CEO Roger Timmerman, who participated via chat, said that he didn’t sign the pledge because “it didn’t go far enough.” He specifically criticized the omission of language that encourages ISPs to relax data caps and overage charges in this time of national crisis.
As responses to the pandemic become more drastic by the day, the tools of connectivity offered by broadband become more essential. The efforts made by ISPs, said Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, are “broadening our view of what a first responder is.”
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