COVID-19

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

Jasmine Garsd Jul 6, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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