A proposed law would make it illegal for companies to shut off internet service during COVID-19
Internet is no longer a luxury.
At this point, the internet has become a part of many of our lives. Even before the pandemic pushed people into their homes for work and leisure, reliable internet service was all but a necessity for many of us. COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders have only highlighted that further.
Now, a new proposed US law would make it illegal for telecom companies to cancel a person’s internet or phone service while the pandemic is ongoing. The bill has been proposed and submitted by senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Essentially, if it passes, companies that do not follow the rules would be hit with penalties. The penalty includes a $100 a day fine for each disconnect that does not meet the rules proposed in the law. Exceptions include customers that request that their service is disconnected and instances where law enforcement requests that a particular line or account is canceled. The $100 a day fine would require the FCC to use the money “to provide assistance to low-income individuals who lack access to affordable broadband service due to the COVID–19 emergency.”
As for a timeframe for this, it proposes that it last from March 13 to “180 days after the date on which the COVID–19 emergency terminates.” The “terminates” part would have to be declared by President Trump, according to Ars Technica.
In a press release, Merkley notes, “Now—as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning—would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like internet service.”
Overall, this makes sense. The internet can barely (if at all) be considered a luxury anymore and as more companies pivot to work-from-home, something like this will help protect people as we all work to get back into the swing of things.
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