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Democrats urge telecommunications to raise obsolescence fees for students

A group of Democratic senators are calling on the telecommunications industry to lift their limits and fees related to increased broadband usage for students amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the CEOs of telecommunications companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and T-Mobile Friday, Senators like Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) requested it that telecommunications temporarily suspend data restrictions, obsolescence charges, and throttling as students begin distance learning across the country.

“We have heard from public schools expressing appreciation for Internet service options that enable distance learning, but also addressing the persistent data restrictions and lack of services for many households,”

; the senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional amounts of data beyond what is available to students.”

In July, the Federal Communications Commission announced their Keep Americans Connected Pledge, a voluntary pledge by telecommunications that could ensure they continue to provide services and raise excess costs during the pandemic. That promise ended this summer. In some cases the providers have not kept this promise to their customers.

When the pandemic began to relocate online schooling in the U.S. earlier this year, school officials found that students attending more affluent schools tended to have better attendance rates than students with less affluent backgrounds. This may be due in part to the wealthier students having more access to broadband and tech devices.

“Our offices have received numerous complaints from parents and educators who are frustrated by usage restrictions, limited bandwidth, and preventing the need for daily video calls to study and work from home,” the senators wrote. “And those who have no choice will be buried in obsolescence charges.”

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