By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – AT&T Inc <T.N> said on Thursday it is waiving data overage fees for all home internet users who are not currently on unlimited data plans, citing the coronavirus outbreak, while Comcast Holdings Corp <CCZ.N> said it was raising data speeds on the internet service it offers low-income people.
Millions more Americans are expected to work from home as employers ask people who can telecommute to skip going to the office.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was holding calls with industry leaders and groups on Thursday about the impact of coronavirus on networks and consumers, people briefed on the matter said.
AT&T has previously waived data overage fees for victims of natural disasters.
Comcast said it will give new low-income users 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to qualified households for $9.95 per month, and will increase Internet speeds from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all new and existing customers.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said the crisis will prompt agencies “to explore the expansion of telework, telehealth and tele-education.” She added that “where data caps are in place, we need to explore how those limitations can be eliminated.”
Rosenworcel also urged the FCC to work with “health care providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined.”
Verizon Communications Inc said it would boost its capital guidance range from $17 billion-$18 billion to $17.5 billion-18.5 billion in 2020 to accelerate its “transition to 5G and help support the economy during this period of disruption.”
Verizon Chairman Hans Vestberg said the company is “very confident in our company’s ability to meet current demands in providing a great network experience.” Verizon is closely monitoring network usage in the most impacted areas and “will work with and prioritize network demand in assisting the needs of many U.S. hospitals, first responders and government agencies.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)