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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

Neera Tanden withdraws nomination for Office of Management and Budget director

Neera Tanden testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, D.C., in February 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Neera Tanden withdrew her name from nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after several senators voiced opposition and concern about her qualifications and past combative tweets, President Biden announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tanden’s decision to pull her nomination marks Biden's first setback in filling out his Cabinet with a thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

What's ahead for the newest female CEOs

Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million adults by end of May

President Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.