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FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission obtained promises from several of the nation's broadband providers that they will not cut off internet service to Americans who can't pay their bills during the coronavirus crisis, agency chairman Ajit Pai said Friday.

The big picture: Americans will rely on home internet access to continue to work, study and in some cases, obtain telehealth services as the coronavirus pushes more people to quarantine themselves.

Details: Companies that adhere to Pai's "Keep Americans Connected Pledge" commit for the next 60 days to:

  • Not terminate service to any residential or small business customer because of an inability to pay bills due to coronavirus disruptions.
  • Waive late fees that customers incur because of changes in their economic circumstances related to the pandemic.
  • Open Wi-Fi hotspots to those in need.

"I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity," Chairman Pai said in a statement.

Nearly 70 companies already have taken the pledge, according an FCC spokesperson, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Comcast and Charter.

Background: The pledge follows phone calls Pai made with providers and their trade groups Thursday to discuss the coronavirus.

  • Pai has called on providers to relax data limits and urged companies with low-income broadband programs to expand and improve them, though those policies weren't part of the pledge.
  • Pai has also talked with providers about ensuring their network performance doesn't suffer as a result of heavier daytime usage of home broadband connections, the FCC said.

Context: Lawmakers have urged internet service providers to step up this week to help Americans through the coronavirus.

  • Rep. Jerry McNerney and 11 other House Energy and Commerce Democrats in a letter Thursday asked providers for details on how they're ensuring students, low-income people and others can access the internet during the crisis.
  • Sen. Mark Warner led other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus in asking major ISPs to suspend data caps during the crisis and do more to help students get broadband at home.

What's happening: AT&T, Comcast and Charter already have announced changes to their services in response to coronavirus.

Go deeper

Fight over Putin's pipeline consumes Congress

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration, House and Senate Democrats and even the German government are engaged in a multi-pronged effort to stop Congress from imposing mandatory sanctions on a Kremlin-backed natural gas pipeline.

Why it matters: President Biden's decision to let Nord Stream 2 proceed has put his allies in an uncomfortable bind. Republicans have already blocked dozens of Biden's foreign-policy nominees, and the dispute threatened to derail an annual defense bill passed by Congress every year for six decades.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.