WASHINGTON—Broadcasters, broadband and telephone companies have stepped up during the current coronavirus pandemic, said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, with actions like the Keep American Connected Pledge and expanded news coverage. He believes it was a trust in the market rather than official mandates that have led to such positive action.
These were part of Pai’s remarks during an online workshop with the International Development Bank and the International Institute of Communications.
After determining that the FCC’s top priority during the pandemic should be to ensure as many Americans as possible have internet access and aren’t at risk of having their services cutoff because of missed payments during this time, Pai said that the commission decided it was better to “use markets before mandates.”
The FCC called on broadband and telephone providers to take the Keep American Connected Pledge and adhere to its three tenants: That no consumer would lose service over the next 60 days because they couldn’t pay as a result of disruptions from the pandemic; that no one would be charged late fees; and that Wi-Fi hotspots would be opened to anyone who needs them.
Pai says that more than 700 companies have signed the pledge, including all of the nation’s largest service providers. Some have even gone beyond the pledge, as the FCC hoped they would, with offerings like upgrading speeds at no cost, expanding low-cost programs and offering free service to low-income families and students. Some companies have also donated connectivity to healthcare workers and facilities.
Broadcasters have also stepped up during this time, Pai said, using their platforms to promote social distancing, offer expanded news coverage and raise funds for their communities.
“In the end, I believe trusting the markets rather than solely relying on mandates resulted in more consumer-friendly policies than we would have achieved with a more heavy-handed government intervention, and I know that we were able to make these changes more quickly,” Pai said.
Pai wrapped up his speech with some additional principles the FCC has been using during this time: to use every tool in the toolkit; to act like its an emergency and not delay; and to put your people first.
Pai’s full speech is available on the FCC website.
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