Can you believe that it has been over two months since the four major U.S. carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) signed The FCC's Keep Americans Connected Pledge along with other smaller firms like US Cellular, TracFone Wireless, Google Fiber, Comcast, CenturyLink, Charter, Mediacom, Atlantic Broadband, and more. Just as it became apparent that the coronavirus wasn't just going to magically disappear or burn off in the warmer weather, the carriers realized that keeping Americans connected with friends and family was going to be an essential business.
The Keep Americans Connected Pledge has been extended to the end of June
By affixing their signatures to the pledge, these companies promised for a 60-day period not to drop an account belonging to a residential or small business customer because of non-payment. During the same time period, these wireless providers waived all late fees and allowed anyone to have access to their Wi-Fi hotspots. And now that the first two month time period has been reached, the pledge has been renewed through the end of June.
Last month though, we told you that some of the carriers were not completely following the pledge and several accounts were closed for non-payment. One furniture salesman had his service turned off by Verizon even though he was told by the manager of a Verizon reseller that his account would not be disconnected. Because his kids were using the service for distance learning, he felt pressured to use his unemployment check to pay the amount due even though it meant that he couldn't pay his mortgage that month. An Uber driver was disconnected by Sprint twice for non-payment before his service was turned back on. And this customer had received multiple assurances that his wireless account would remain active during the time period covered by the pledge.
But these are not isolated cases. According to The Verge, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that the agency has received 2,200 complaints related to COVID-19 over the last several weeks. Of those complaints, 1,400 received a response directly from the carrier involved; another 500 complaints were aimed at the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and Pai said that "The other COVID-19 complaints involve questions about billing or network issues or broadband access generally." The FCC handles each complaint by passing it along to the individual carrier that is mentioned by the consumer. Once it receives the complaint, a carrier has 30 days to respond to the consumer who filed it.
The chairman of the regulatory agency added that "It’s my understanding that most of the complaints that we have received about the pledge have been resolved to ensure that the consumer remains connected." That was also the case with the complaints that we told you about in April; once the carriers were apprised of the situation they decided that the consumer was right.
Of course, it doesn't look good for a wireless firm to disregard the pledge and cancel the service belonging to a customer who has lost his job during the Pandemic. Law360 says that it analyzed 450 previous complaints made against the carriers and found that many wireless operators were not following the pledge. One complaint cited by Law360 came from an AT&T customer who was trying to take advantage of a special 60-day offer. She claimed that she was placed on hold for a very long period of time before being told that the offer did not apply to prepaid customers. The customer said that this was not stipulated in the offer leading her to tell the FCC, "Clearly that is not the truth."
And while carriers were supposed to make their Wi-Fi hotspots free for all, when some consumers logged into Xfinity hotspots that were supposed to be free under the pledge, they were prompted to make a payment in order to connect to them.