Many families who’ve been burning up bandwidth while working from home or participating in remote learning can now breathe a sigh of relief. AT&T, one of the most widely-used internet providers in the U.S., has extended its waiver of data overage fees. Originally set to expire on September 30, 2020, the fees will now be waived through the end of the year for home internet customers.
The waivers apply to all customers, including users of the AT&T Access program, which provides low-cost internet for families who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program, Head Start, or have a qualifying household income. This will make a huge difference for kids learning virtually and parents working from home. The original cutoff date would have made internet access unaffordable for millions of low income families because, without a waiver, avoiding overage charges can be extremely difficult. Now many of those families will have all the data they need without having to worry about paying additional fees.
The extension comes thanks to the efforts of organizations working to amplify the voices of concerned parents. For example, more than 28,000 people signed a nonprofit’s petition, asking AT&T not to cancel unlimited data in the “Access From AT&T” program for low-income families. The petition points out that AT&T is the recipient of millions of dollars from state governments to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for kids. This extension is a huge win for parents, made possible by parents.
“The education and safety of our children are necessities; and, in this time of danger, stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable internet is critical,” said Carmen C., one petition signer. “We need providers, including AT&T, to step up and put our children ahead of profits.”
Following AT&T’s announcement late Friday night, Justin Ruben, Co-director of ParentsTogether, celebrated the decision. “Millions of American families are struggling right now. Parents are grateful for AT&T’s decision to extend data overage waivers for their customers, which means that some kids won’t have to sit in a parking lot using the wifi off of the local Taco Bell just to go to remote school,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
“At the end of the year, if children are still doing remote school and many people are still working from home, it will be critical that AT&T continue to waive data overages and expand access,” he continued. “This is a time when we all need to act as a community and take care of each other.”