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Putting a price on staying connected

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

By Ridge Coffey and Michelle Qiao Dec. 9, 2020

Shelter in place orders during the COVID-19 pandemic have made the internet essential for work, school and communication. Early in the pandemic, major internet service providers (ISPs) allowed customers to exceed their subscription plans and access unlimited data to help keep people connected. As access to the internet often depends on data plans, which can have a data cap, or an artificial restriction on the transfer of data through networks. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these data cap limitations were temporarily relaxed. However, in early summer, several of these companies reinstated their data limitations.


On March 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put forward the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, urging companies to do their part in ensuring that all people in the United States could stay online during the pandemic. The pledge also called for providers to increase affordability for low-income communities, which had been hit especially hard by COVID-

Ivan Zhu Art 19. According to the FCC, more than

800 ISPs across the United States stepped forward to take part in the initiative, including renowned companies such as CenturyLink and Verizon.


American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) provided all home customers with unlimited data, waiving several late fees and creating a $10 million conservation fund to support distance learning. Similarly, Comcast waived their standard $50 price for unlimited data and upgraded all customer plans for two months. However, when the FCC’s pledge terminated on July 1, AT&T, Comcast and other ISPs reinstated their data caps by the end of the month. In a statement released by Comcast, the company said its decision would promote “fairness” between customers. ISPs have additionally claimed that data caps are a necessary measure to prevent network overload.


The universal availability of unlimited data has not led to additional internet congestion and dramatically increased consumer demand.

However, the past few months have shown that this may not necessarily be true. The universal availability of unlimited data has not led to additional internet congestion and dramatically increased consumer demand. Comcast released a statement that said the quality of its network remained the same despite a 32 percent increase in traffic during the pandemic. A statement released by AT&T announced that its network continued to perform well. Many consumers are now questioning the necessity for data caps, pointing out that they seem to be a business tactic to boost revenue rather than a technical necessity.


“Companies should extend their data benefits indefinitely, or at least during the pandemic. For people who cannot afford the internet, reinstating data caps could prevent them from communicating online and doing their job,” Sophomore Kailey Hu said.


If ISPs decide to return to charging additional costs for data usage, underprivileged families and communities would be impacted most.

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of adults in the United States considered the internet as an essential service during the pandemic. In addition, a previous study had found that 98 percent of people with over $75,000 in income had access to the internet, compared with only 82 percent of people with under $30,000 in income. If ISPs decide to return to charging additional costs for data usage, underprivileged families and communities would be impacted most.


“Internet services should be considered an essential resource and made available to all, especially during the pandemic. Not everyone can afford to have the internet for they need online school, work or even basic communication,” Junior Leila White said.


By retracting their pandemic benefits, ISPs lower network demand while stripping customers of access to the internet. Service providers need to recognize that the current circumstances have further established the internet as an essential resource in daily life. With data caps having no benefit on network quality or congestion, ISPs should not reinstate data caps, at least for the duration of the pandemic.

 

About the Contributors

Ridge Coffey

Entertainment Editor


Ridge Coffey is the entertainment editor for the Charger Account. He is a senior at Leland and he hopes to major in creative writing at Boise State. Outside of school, Ridge enjoys spending time with his friends and doing musical theatre. He hopes everyone is doing well in these troubling times.





Michelle Qiao

Staff Writer


Michelle Qiao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She loves to play volleyball and spends her free time reading, drinking coffee and watching Pixar movies.

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