CTIA: The wireless industry responds to COVID-19

By Meredith Attwell Baker, President & CEO, CTIA:

Wireless providers are working tirelessly to ensure wireless will be there when Americans need it most as the COVID-19 response disrupts daily life.

We recognize that this situation is rapidly changing, and keeping Americans connected and our industry’s workforce safe are our highest priorities.

We understand that consumers may be using their mobile devices even more during this time, as their workplaces are disrupted and many schools are closed. Our member companies are committed to supporting consumers during this time and are taking a variety of steps to better serve millions of Americans.

Wireless providers have committed to taking steps to ensure that consumers don’t lose connectivity during this outbreak. The six largest U.S. wireless providers adopted a pledge to not terminate service to individuals or small businesses that are unable to pay bills, waiving late fees and opening Wi-Fi hotspots to all Americans for 60 days. Providers are implementing other relief measures, like increasing capacity and supporting students and their families. Consumers can see the full list of support offered by their service providers in the resource links below.

The U.S. wireless industry builds its networks for resiliency and reliability, investing more than $20 billion each year, and we are working hard right now to increase capacity and meet the challenge of increased usage.

Operators have announced hundreds of million in new investment, and we have seen unprecedented sharing of spectrum right now to prepare for millions of Americans working and learning from home. Our network management efforts help ensure the most reliable wireless experience in the world, as we all use our wireless so much more month-after-month. Last year alone we saw an 82% increase in mobile traffic.

On a typical day, for example, wireless providers use tools to manage capacity as usage shifts around regions while consumers travel to and from work or school. As millions of Americans move from their workplaces and schools to home, wireless providers use these same tools to help maintain the reliable experience that consumers expect.

Keeping wireless networks up and running requires healthy engineers, experts and support teams. Our member companies have outlined actions to safeguard their employees, including implementing remote working when possible and providing additional paid time off for sickness or caregiving.

We are also working closely with public safety officials, sharing information and offering support at the federal, state and local levels. As with other emergency events where additional network resources may be needed, wireless providers are ready to deploy portable assets like COLTs and COWs, mobile charging stations, and more.

Support for Students and Educators

As school systems shift to distance learning during this event, we want students and teachers to be able to harness wireless to stay connected. Here are some of the ways wireless providers are doing their part:

  • AT&T is underwriting expenses for a “one-stop” resource center to support eLearning Days from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) available to all educators in schools to help them handle school closures and the increase in virtual learning due to COVID-19.
  • T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance for free to schools and students using our EmpowerED digital learning programs to ensure each participant has access to at least 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.
  • Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation, which supports 350,000 high school students who lack critical internet access at home, is working to accelerate receipt of more than 100,000 new devices intended for use next school year so that it can deploy them as soon as possible to respond to the new environment.
  • Verizon announced support for relief efforts across communities impacted by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by tripling its monthly data allowance for its Verizon Innovative Learning schools and committing $10 million to nonprofits directed at supporting students and first responders.
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