On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission temporarily waived rules in a move to foster internet access for hospitals and schools stuck in the broadband gap during the coronavirus pandemic.
In its announcement, the FCC said that it would waive the “gift rules” included in its Rural Health Care and E-Rate education programs that forbid participating hospitals and schools from accepting or requesting additional hardware and services from internet service providers. These rules will be null until September 20th, 2020. This could allow providers to upgrade these institutions’ network capacity and loan out Wi-Fi hotspots to schools and libraries to administer to students who don’t have access to the internet at home.
The increase in COVID-19 patients is presenting unique challenges to America’s hospitals and health care providers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “And we strongly encourage service providers and equipment makers to partner with schools and libraries to provide mobile hotspots and other broadband-enabled devices to students to help bridge the digital divide during the coronavirus pandemic.”
According to a UNESCO study, about 850 million kids around the world have stopped going to school amid the crisis.
Charter Communications began offering free Internet for 60 days to households with students K-12, college students and low income users.
The company issued the following statement:
In the coming weeks, many Americans will be affected either directly or indirectly by COVID-19 and Charter is focused on serving and supporting our 29 million customers. Americans rely on high speed broadband in nearly every aspect of their lives and Charter is committed to ensuring our customers maintain reliable access to the online resources and information they want and need. To ease the strain in this challenging time, beginning Monday, March 16, Charter commits to the following for 60 days:
- Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
- Charter will partner with school districts to ensure local communities are aware of these tools to help students learn remotely. Charter will continue to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, high speed broadband program to eligible low-income households delivering speeds of 30 Mbps.
- Charter will open its Wi-Fi hotspots across our footprint for public use.
- Spectrum does not have data caps or hidden fees.
As the country works collaboratively to contain this pandemic, broadband internet access will be increasingly essential to ensuring that people across the country are able to learn and work remotely, that businesses can continue to serve customers, and that Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends.
Charter’s advanced communications network will ensure our more than 29 million customers – including government offices, first responders, health care facilities, and businesses – across 41 states maintain the connectivity they rely on. The network is built to sustain maximum capacity during peak usage which is typically in the evenings, so a surge during the day would be well within the network’s capabilities to manage. Charter will continue to closely monitor this dynamic situation, and is well-prepared to continue delivering reliable connectivity. Charter has extensive business and workforce continuity plans in place that will be adjusted as needed to best serve all our customers and employees.