In response to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. wireless companies are taking measures to ensure you can stay connected. Some of these steps, such as waiving late fees and forbidding service termination, are designed to relieve financial hardship during this period of unpredictability. Moreover, several carriers have removed data caps and added mobile hotspot allowances so that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
In this article:
- FCC Connectivity Pledge
- Additional Steps Carriers Are Taking
- Verizon’s COVID-19 Pledge
- T-Mobile’s COVID-19 Response
- AT&T’s Novel Coronavirus Pledge
- Sprint’s COVID-19 Announcement
- MVNO COVID-19 Responses
- Cleaning Your Phone in the Time of Coronavirus
FCC Connectivity Pledge
In response to the coronavirus outbreak and the associated stressors, on March 13, 2020, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. This initiative aims to ensure you don’t lose your cellular and internet access as a result of COVID-19 challenges. So far, more than 390 companies, including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.
For a period of at least 60 days (from March 13), participating broadband and mobile companies have pledged to:
- Waive all late payment fees.
- Continue providing wireless service to all customers, regardless of their ability to pay.
- Make their public WiFi hotspots available and free to any American who needs them.
On April 30, Ajit Pai extended the FCC Keep Americans Connected Pledge to June 30, 2020. While the FCC pledge may have technically ended, many carriers have extended their promise.
Additional Steps Mobile Carriers are Taking
Many cell phone carriers have also taken additional steps to reduce the challenges associated with the coronavirus. They understand that it’s a stressful time for everyone. With so much change happening so quickly, these carriers want you to stay connected to your loved ones no matter your financial situation.
Verizon’s COVID-19 Pledge
Verizon’s pledge relief measures expired as of June 30, but this major carrier is still taking action in other ways, such as:
- Offering extra repayment options through its Stay Connected repayment program.
- Tripling schools’ current data allowances for its Verizon Innovative Learning program.
- Extending the military and veteran discount to teachers and nurses (this is permanent).
Below is a rundown of Verizon’s expired COVID-19 relief measures:
- Unlimited domestic calling to customers on limited minute plans.
- Free international calling to Level 3 countries that have been affected by COVID-19.
- Prepaid customers receive an extra 300 minutes to call Level 3 countries.
- Upgrade and activation fees are waived.
- Extra 15GB of hotspot to unlimited customers.
- Extra 15GB of high-speed data to shared data customers.
T-Mobile’s COVID-19 Response
Although T-Mobile’s COVID-19 relief pledge ended on June 30, as of July 1, this major carrier is still doing its best to work with customers who need financial relief. If you’re a T-Mobile customer who has experienced financial burden due to the novel coronavirus, contact T-Mobile to make payment arrangements. T-Mobile has also set up an online payment portal that enables customers to divide payments for any overdue bills.
T-Mobile has also enabled online chats with retail experts through T-Mobile’s website, Apple Business Chat, or Facebook Messenger. Customers can add new lines or activate a new account. Beginning April 13, T-Mobile will expand the mobile chat capabilities by allowing customers to pay bills or upgrade accounts. Additionally, cheap T-Mobile Connect Plans were made available earlier than planned—just $15/month for 2GB and $25/month for 5GB. The early release was part of T-Mobile’s COVID-19 response to provide customers with affordable wireless plans.
Previous actions T-Mobile took include:
- All T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers receive unlimited data for the next 60 days.
- Customers on a hotspot data plan receive an extra 20GB of hotspot data for the next 60 days.
- Lifeline subscribers receive an extra 5GB of data for the next 60 days.
- EmpowerED digital learning program subscribers receive at least 20GB of data/month.
- Free international calling to all Level 3 countries impacted by the pandemic.
- Sprint customers will receive enhanced roaming capacity on T-Mobile’s network for the next 60 days.
AT&T’s Novel Coronavirus Pledge
With AT&T’s payment relief promise ending as of July 1, customers outside of Hawaii and Washington (where there are mandated payment waivers) will need to apply for a payment waiver.
AT&T is still waiving international roaming charges in Guam as well as offering free calls for active-duty military personnel stationed on select Navy ships. AT&T’s FirstNet network is offering discounted phone plans and free cell phones to first responders. Lastly, all AT&T internet customers will receive unlimited data through September 30.
You can read about AT&T’s now-expired COVID-19 relief measures below:
- All broadband customers receive unlimited home internet for 60 days.
- 50% off World Connect Advantage international plans.
- Free video conferencing through Cisco Webex Meetings.
- Extra 15GB/month for each line on an unlimited plan that includes a dedicated hotspot (April 2 – May 13).
- Free express shipping, as well as waived activation, upgrade, and restocking fees.
- 20% off accessories when you order through att.com/accessories.
- Extra 10GB of monthly data for limited data prepaid customers for 60 days (if you sign up before April 26).
- Extra 10GB of monthly hotspot for Unlimited Plus prepaid customers for 60 days (if you sign up before April 26).
- AT&T is temporarily offering an affordable prepaid plan—$15/month for 2GB of data.
On March 20, 2020, AT&T announced that they’ve created a Distance Learning and Family Connections fund to provide teachers, students, and parents the necessary tools for at-home learning.
Sprint’s COVID-19 Announcement
Although Sprint’s COVID-19 relief measures ended July 1, if you need financial assistance, you should contact Sprint to make a payment arrangement.
Sprint’s coronavirus relief actions have now ended, but below you can find some measures this major carrier took:
- Free international calling to Level 3 countries (through May 31, 2020).
- All Sprint customers receive unlimited data for 60 days (starting March 18, 2020).
- Customers on a plan with hotspot receive an extra 20GB of hotspot/month for 60 days (starting March 18, 2020).
- Customers with a hotspot-capable device receive 20GB/month of hotspot for 60 days (starting between March 18 and April 1).
Moreover, Sprint will provide their 1Million Project partner school districts with an additional 10GB of high-speed wireless data per month until June 30, 2020.
MVNO COVID-19 Responses
Many MVNOS, or small carriers, responded to the COVID-19 crisis as well. Here’s what these small carriers did for their customers:
- Through April 30, Boost Mobile offered free international calling to Level 3 countries, waived reconnection fees, extra 20GB of hotspot to unlimited customers, and an additional 20GB of data to limited data customers. Boost has not announced any additional measures.
- Ending at the end of May, Metro by T-Mobile previously offered customers unlimited data and free international calling, as well as an extra 20GB of hotspot for those on a hotspot plan. Metro hasn’t announced any further relief measures.
- Mint Mobile’s COVID-19 relief measures ended on June 14, but the company has stated it is committed to finding new ways to help people stay connected.
- Cricket Wireless added 10GB of data to limited plans, as well as an extra 10GB of hotspot data to all unlimited plans. You must have signed up for service with Cricket by May 14.
- Gen Mobile, a Sprint MVNO, added 5GB of data for customers on plans costing $15/month or higher, as long as the customers signed up by June 1.
- U.S. Cellular is offering an additional 15GB of mobile hotspot to customers on an Unlimited Everyday or Even Better plan. This offer is good through July 31. Customers on limited data plans will not have their data speeds throttled when they go over their monthly data allowance.
Cleaning Your Phone in the Time of Coronavirus
Let’s face it, everyone knows how filthy our cell phones can be, but if you’ve been neglecting cleaning your phone, now is a good time to start. The coronavirus can survive on various surfaces for several days—and that includes your cell phone. If you’re wiping down shopping carts and door handles, why aren’t you wiping down the device you not only touch but hold against your cheek? Check out the video below to see a couple of ways to disinfect your phone.