Internet providers vow to keep customers connected during outbreak -- even if they can’t pay

Internet providers AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are among a slew of companies that have committed to keeping Americans connected even if they can’t pay their bills during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dozens of Internet and telephone service providers have signed the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. The companies have agreed to “not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” for a 60-day period, according to the FCC. They have also promised to waive any late fees incurred because of the coronavirus crisis and open their Wi-fI hotspots to any American who needs them.

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“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and — importantly — take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus.”

More than 2,000 cases of coronavirus were reported in the U.S. by late Friday, spanning 49 states and the District of Columbia. COVID-19 has been responsible for 50 deaths in the U.S.

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On Friday President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency to free up money and resources to fight the outbreak and then threw his support behind an aid package that the U.S. House approved early Saturday to provide direct relief to Americans.

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From the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers