The closure of schools has caused disruption to students’ schooling and every day routine, so some internet providers are committing to help.
Several high-speed internet providers in the start have joined with the Federal Communications Commission’s “Keep Americans Connected” Pledge. With the commitment, internet service providers say they “will not terminate service to any residential or small business customer for failure to pay during the pandemic; they will waive late fees for the customers and open their Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them,” according to a statement from Innovate Ohio.
Currently, the companies included in the pledge are:
- Bresco Broadband
- Cable One
- Cincinnati Bell
- Consolidated Communications
- Cox Communications
- Little Miami
- Ohio Rural Broadband Association
- Ohio Telecom Association
- TracFone Wireless
- U.S. Cellular
- Van Lue
Charter Communications, which owns Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi said they would offer 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a subscription with the company. The free service is for any level up to 100 Mbps and installation fees will be waived for those new households.
“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, remotely, that businesses can continue to service customers, and that Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends,” Charter Communications said in a statement.
On Wednesday the FCC changed the Rural Health Care and E-Rate programs to “make it easier for broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning efforts during the coronavirus pandemic,” according to an FCC release.
The E-Rate program aims to help schools and libraries get affordable broadband access, and the Rural Health Care programs seeks to do the same for health care providers.
The FCC waived the “gift rules” that prohibited those eligible for the programs from receiving anything “of value from a service provider.” With the waiver, those in the programs can ask for and receive “improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning” during the outbreak.
Neither the governor’s office nor the companies have commented on those within Ohio who don’t have the ability to connect to the internet in their region. The U.S. Census Bureau noted in the most recent American Community Survey in 2018 estimated 586,602 Ohioans have no internet access.
Southeast Ohio has some of the biggest gaps in internet service, with 19.6% of households in Athens County with no internet subscription or dial-up only. That number grows to 30% in Morgan County and 21% of Muskingum County.
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio. Read more Ohio Capital Journal stories here.