Internet Providers Expected to Increase Data Fees As Students Learn Virtually

It’s just typical.  Businesses looking to take advantage of consumers when times are bad.  First it was price gouging during Hurricane Sandy, increasing the costs on “whatever” to make a higher profit on a product when the public was hurting financially.

No we are hearing rumors that internet providers are looking to take advantage of the public because so many students are attending school virtually and using more data at home to conduct their studies.

Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea today stated, “It has been brought to my attention that internet providers will soon be charging users who have needed more data in order for their children to attend virtual school – up to 30 hours a week- more money. Many of these families are on unemployment or public assistance. Many more make less than a living wage. It is unfair and unreasonable to do this during a pandemic when they are given no option but virtual learning.”

O’Dea points out that the Board of Commissioners this week will present a resolution opposing the move by internet providers.  The resolution reads:

RESOLUTION URGING FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES THAT REGULATE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS TO IMPOSE A MORATORIUM ON ADDED FEES OR CHARGES ON INTERNET DATA USAGE UNTIL AFTER THE COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY IS DECLARED OVER AND SCHOOLS REOPEN

WHEREAS, being able to access the internet is now an indispensable part of life, education and work, and having reliable and high-speed internet access is even more critical now as school, events, and businesses have transitioned to using online services during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, some areas of the County of Hudson are still currently underserved in terms of high-speed broadband internet access, lacking choices in choosing an affordable and reliable internet service provider; and

WHEREAS, internet service can be expensive and the lack of competition among internet service providers can make it difficult for families to find affordable internet service and negotiate a better rate. This issue is particularly critical now as we have become more reliant on internet services with the ongoing pandemic, especially home-based remote learning for school-age children, while at the same time many families have incurred financial loss due to pandemic-related job losses; and

WHEREAS, because of increased use of the internet for remote-based learning, many households are facing additional charges or fees for exceeding their data use plan thresholds, an undue financial burden at a time when many households are also facing job losses due to the pandemic; and

WHEREAS, lack of access to affordable high-speed internet services, as well as the lack of knowledge of digital skills, are impacting our working-class families, immigrants, communities of color and seniors the most;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Hudson County Board of County Commissioners that:

  • The Board does hereby express its strong opposition to added fees or charges imposed by internet service providers for internet data usage during the COVID-19 State of Emergency; and
  • The Board does hereby call upon federal and state regulatory agencies to impose a moratorium on added fees or charges by internet service providers for data usage exceedances until after the COVID-19 State of Emergency is declared over and schools reopen; and
  • Copies of this Resolution be forwarded to Governor Phil Murphy, the Chair of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the Hudson County delegation to the State Legislature, and the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission.

Both the Jersey City Board of Education and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D – District 31) oppose the attempt to raise data fees by internet providers.  In a letter to Comcast dated today, January 26, 2021, the Assemblyman states in part, “I write to express concern about Comcast’s recent decision to increase costs to residents.

This week, my office has received emails and correspondences from frustrated parents, who were informed that their Internet bills will be going up. The Hudson County Board of Commissioners is preparing a resolution calling attention to this problem. During this health emergency, as learning remains remote for most of our students, Comcast’s action seems preposterous.

Jersey City and Bayonne, the two cities that I represent, have two of the larger school districts in Hudson County and are both conducting classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic which, for some, has led to loss of employment, housing and food insecurity.

I am asking for Comcast to put a hold on raising costs on services until the government has declared that the health emergency is over.”

Earlier today, Commissioner O’Dea informed Hudson TV that Comcast had told Assemblyman Chiaravalloti that it is changing its policy.  “Of course – waiting to get it in writing.”

The question now is, will other internet providers delay their decisions to increase data usage rates as Comcast has chosen to do?