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Coronavirus

If you’re struggling to pay your internet bill, read this

When it comes to finding information about coronavirus, there’s no shortage of online resources. That can include specific infection numbers in your area, tips on going back to restaurants again, when to expect a vaccine and just about anything else you can think of.

Sadly, there is just as much misinformation that you need to avoid, too, like a contact tracing hoax that’s spreading on Facebook. Tap or click here to find out what’s really going on.

But, to stay informed there’s one key element that we all need: internet access. Staying online has become a real problem for many who have been affected by the negative economic repercussions brought on by COVID-19, and that’s only going to get more difficult at the end of this month.

Keep America Connected Pledge is ending

Tens of millions of Americans are being kept home from work because of the pandemic. Many people, especially hourly workers and those paid by tips or by the job, simply won’t be paid.

In March, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of America’s internet providers and other tech companies promised to keep your service going even if you couldn’t pay the bill. T-Mobile, CenturyLink, Cox, AT&T, Cable One, Verizon — virtually every U.S. internet provider — promised they wouldn’t interrupt your personal or business internet service for 60 days, or as long as the emergency lasts, even if you can’t pay the bill. It’s called the Keep Americans Connected pledge.

RELATED: 10 ways coronavirus has changed your daily life

The pledge meant not only would late fees be waived but those struggling financially wouldn’t lose internet service. And many providers eliminated data caps under the pledge. Unfortunately, the pledge is about to end. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Friday that the pledge expires June 30.

What does the pledge expiring mean to you?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to Congress last week asking them to come up with legislation that would help keep consumers and small businesses connected over the coming months after the Keep America Connected Pledge expires.

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“I believe now is the time for legislation to ensure that doctors and patients, students and teachers, low-income families and veterans, those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns, those in our cities and those in the countryside — in short, all Americans — remain connected until this emergency ends,” Pai said in the letter.

He also asked internet providers to not disconnect consumers and small businesses who are behind on their bills in July. Instead, Pai suggested offering customers the option of extended payment plans and deferred payment arrangements. The good news is many companies have agreed.

While Congress looks for a long-term solution, you might have the option to strike a deal with your internet provider to keep your service connected. Your best course of action is to contact your provider and find out what payment plans it is offering.

One company has already announced it’s extending a program that has been very helpful during the pandemic. Comcast will continue to offer free access to its public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots through the rest of the year.

The company said, “We saw a huge jump in usage after we opened up our public hotspots, and we’re excited to keep them open through the end of the year as the nation begins taking steps to reopen.

‘We’re pleased to see so many families and individuals take advantage of our 60 days of free home internet through Internet Essentials, and the free access to public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots to get online during this time when connectivity is so important.”

Having internet service is crucial during times like these, when everyone needs the most updated information on coronavirus to stay safe. It will be even more important later this year when students get back to work, and either need to attend school online or use the internet for research.

We’ve already seen posts on public forums of how important internet access is during the school year. One mother of two posted in March that she used her last $221 dollars to pay the internet bill so her kids could continue their studies online. She then said she had no more money to buy groceries for the week.

So, if you find yourself in the position of not being able to pay your internet bill, contact your provider and set up a payment plan. If you’re in need of work, one southern city is paying $2,000 for workers to relocate. Tap or click here to see if you qualify.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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