April 27, 2020 by Tom Cohen

Broadband Providers Take the Pledge and Now the Federal Government is Doing its Part

 

Over a month ago, over 700 broadband service providers began stepping up and taking FCC Chairman Pai’s “60 Day Pledge” to not disconnect subscribers or charge late fees for not paying their bills on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, many providers have decided, on their own, to connect previously unconnected students at no charge so they can learn at home. This is a great credit to the industry at a time when they are incurring additional costs to protect the health and safety of their employees and their subscribers—and at a time when their revenues are taking a hit as many of their business subscribers cut back or even close. 

But, with the pledge ending in another 30 days and with the pandemic likely continuing past that time, providers want to know, “What’s next?” Will Chairman Pai ask them to re-up? Will Congress mandate that providers follow the pledge for the entire pandemic, as some members of Congress attempted to do during consideration of the prior stimulus legislation?

Service providers want to do their part, and hundreds more than willingly signed onto the Chairman’s Pledge. But, at the end of the day, it is the government’s job to support low-income individuals’ and students’ access to service over the long run. That is why the federal government established the Lifeline and E-rate programs, and why the recent stimulus legislation contained an additional $200 million to extend the Telehealth program, $100 million for the ReConnect program, and $25M for the Community Connect program. If the government does not step up and fund connectivity for low-income consumers and students, it will cut into the revenues service providers need for operations and the free cash flow they need to upgrade and expand their networks. And, that will harm consumers across the board when broadband connectivity is so critical.

Congress will consider additional stimulus legislation over the coming months, and members of Congress have proposed various ways to provide support for low-income and unemployed individuals and students so they can maintain connectivity. Service providers that care about these issues should weigh-in with their Senators and Representatives to support these efforts.

For more educational opportunities on funding and regulatory topics, please visit the Calix Regulatory webpage