Staying connected

Phone and internet providers pledge leniency

SUNDAY, APRIL 5—Companies serving Massachusetts have signed a pledge to maintain phone and internet service to residents and small businesses who have trouble paying their bills during the current crisis. The pledge was circulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) as part of its Keep Americans Connected Initiative.

An official in the state’s Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) found that most Massachusetts service providers have signed the pledge, which currently runs through May 13. The signers include AT&T, Charter Spectrum, Comcast, Consolidated, Cox, RCN, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

DTC has not issued a formal statement since the agency does not have authority to tell the companies what to do. 

In general, you will need to contact your providers if you want them to waive late payment fees and not terminate service. You will probably have to tell them that your situation has become more difficult as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

Lifeline providers have also modified their protocols because of the coronavirus emergency.Lifeline is a subsidy program that helps low-income people afford internet connections, mainly by cellphone.

For the time being, providers are allowing unlimited minutes on their free cellphones—different companies have set different end dates for this policy. They have also extended benefit recert deadlines up to May 29.

The DTC Consumer Division HOTLINE number is (800) 392-6066

thanks to Charles Harak, National Consumer Law Center; and to Marina Levy, Competition Division, Mass.Dept. of Telecommunications and Cable