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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 are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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