Keeping North America Connected During COVID-19

More than ever, reliable connectivity is a necessity. In the wake of COVID-19, people across North America are socially distancing and bringing their work home. Essential workers, including telecom workers who are managing networks, are on the front-lines working around the clock to keep everyone going in these trying times.

Operators around the world are seeing heavy traffic increases as people work from home and reach out virtually to their friends and loved ones more. From increasing data on plans and payment flexibility to providing equipment for students who now have to learn from home, our North American operators are going above and beyond to keep people connected. Networks in the U.S. and Canada in particular are performing very well in the face of additional stress and traffic.

Here are just a few things happening across the region:

In the first days of the crisis, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started a pledge to keep Americans connected. More than 650 ICT broadband and telephone service providers, including many GSMA members, have pledged, for the next 60 days, to:
• Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
• Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
• Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Additionally, the FCC granted short-term access to available mobile spectrum in coverage bands (600 MHz) and capacity bands (1.7 -2.2 GHz) to provide additional mobile broadband capacity.

You can see all of the FCC’s initiatives, including pledge signatories and what companies are doing to help, on their Keep Americans Connected page.

In Canada, the government has partnered with operators to ensure that subscribers outside of Canada receive text messages to stay connected to important travel information.

In the Caribbean, a COVID-19 Taskforce was launched, consisting of telecom operators and industry experts, to engage governments and regulators and share best practices during this global pandemic.

As an industry, we are still working to understand what the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on wireless. In the days ahead, our members will continue to focus on their customers. GSMA North America is so incredibly proud of the incredible work our members are doing to keep people connected during these extraordinary times.