Individuals experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship are receiving threatening letters and being disconnected by their wireless providers.
Last month the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” aimed at preventing individuals and small businesses from being disconnected from internet and wireless services during the pandemic. The pledge also called for providers to waive late fees. As countless individuals are working from home, as well as sheltering in place, the internet and wireless services are vital lifelines, providing a way for people to work, shop, study and keep in touch with loved ones. For unemployed individuals, internet access is a critical component to finding new work, or being able to take advantage of unemployment benefits.
In spite of taking the pledge, however, NBC News is reporting that companies are disconnecting unemployed individuals. Verizon and T-Mobile have both stated that customers must be proactive in alerting them to their financial situation and inability to pay. Despite those statements, NBC cites multiple instances of individuals who attempted to do just that—and were reassured their service would remain intact—only to be disconnected anyway. In at least one instance, a Verizon customer was told it would cost $360 to reconnect service.
The FCC acknowledged it has been receiving complaints of service shut-offs, with FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel calling the shut-offs “unacceptable.” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took things a step further, banning internet and phone companies from disconnecting customers during the pandemic.
It’s truly disappointing that companies are reneging on their promise, especially during a time when phone and internet access could literally be the difference between life and death.