COVID-19

The days of free, unlimited data may be coming to an end for some internet users

Jasmine Garsd Jul 6, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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During the pandemic, the internet has provided a vital service for people to file for unemployment, or take online classes or order deliveries. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

The days of free, unlimited data may be coming to an end for some internet users

Jasmine Garsd Jul 6, 2020
During the pandemic, the internet has provided a vital service for people to file for unemployment, or take online classes or order deliveries. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In mid-March, the FCC asked internet providers not to terminate service to customers who couldn’t pay bills because of the pandemic.

Companies like Comcast and AT&T agreed, and offered unlimited data for free, which, for a Comcast user, meant saving around $50 a month.

Professor Marvin Sirbu at Carnegie Mellon University says that’s a vital service. “If you want to file for unemployment insurance, they want you to do it online,” Sirbu said. “In the recent pandemic, if you are a student in school, you need to go online for your remote classes.”

But, the FCC’s initiative ended July 1. AT&T will continue to offer free unlimited data for home internet to certain customers. Comcast says it will not.

“Probably some of these companies feel like the consumers will become too accustomed to some of the free services or trials or benefits they are enjoying,” said professor Seth Lewis at the University of Oregon.

Comcast says people who can’t afford to pay can work out a payment plan, and it’s extending free basic internet to new low-income customers.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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