Telecoms to reinstate data caps after lifting them for shelter-in-place

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Many of the protections put in place to help consumers get through the pandemic are about to expire. People working at home and those struggling to pay their bills may be among the first to be hit.

Waivers on data caps and late fees expire tomorrow, leaving consumers with little protection from higher bills.

RELATED: Amazon giving front-line employees $500 million in bonuses amid coronavirus pandemic

If you're among the lucky who can work from home, chances are you're eating up a lot of your data in Zoom meetings. All that extra time spent at home streaming videos can be a data hog.

Companies such as Comcast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint voluntarily gave many of their customers unlimited data to help out -- but that's ending tomorrow.

Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network says that should not have been allowed to happen.

"Make sure that people have access to essential communications to go to work, to go to school, to go see their doctors, and everything else to be able to shelter in place and keep this virus from spreading," said Toney.

Customers are advised to monitor their data usage to avoid paying overage fees and penalties.

RELATED: Applications for unemployment aid fall to still-high 1.48 million amid coronavirus pandemic

Companies such as Verizon had eliminated late fees and promised not to cut off anyone's service. That's also expiring tomorrow.

"Look, it is not right for communication companies to profit off of a health crisis that requires people to use more data," Toney said.

AT&T tells 7 On Your Side anyone having problems paying a bill should contact them to make payment arrangements.

Comcast says its original promise was intended to get families through the school year.

Verizon says families who signed up for its original program will automatically be put into its repayment program.

RELATED: Is a coronavirus surcharge legal? Businesses pass increased expenses to customers

T-Mobile did not respond to us before our deadline.

All the companies extended their offers at the urging of state and federal regulators.

Matt Wood of the group Free Press advocates for a free and open internet. He says voluntary measures are not enough.

"The key thing is having some kind of public oversight at the state and federal level, frankly, and making sure that this essential service is something where people have access at an affordable rate and have some rights they can look to their government to enforce," said Wood.



If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:


Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.