AT&T data caps temporarily lifted to help COVID-19 countermeasures

Access to the Internet has proved to be more than just a luxury as cities or even whole countries lock themselves down to prevent the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus. Work and schools are moving their activities online and social media and messaging have become the only ways people can safely keep in touch. In the US, however, consumers are facing concerns that their increased Internet use may also increase their expenses. Fortunately for AT&T subscribers, that won't be the case, at least during the coronavirus crisis.

Internet data caps are a fact of life that, according to some experts, aren't really necessary. ISPs often cite fair use or preventing abuse as reasons for putting limits on how much data subscribers can use up during a given period. Some, however, believe it's an antiquated strategy used to simply drive competition in certain markets.

During this time of crisis, however, access to the Internet is critical to keep the cogs of society and the economy turning. As quarantines extend from days to weeks and possibly months, it's highly likely that consumers will quickly hit their data caps. AT&T is the first major US carrier to confirm that it is suspending those caps that could charge consumers $10 per 50GB of excess data over their caps.

Of course, AT&T isn't the only US carrier and lawmakers, as well as consumer groups, are pressing others to do likewise. Senators have issued letters to the major ISPs to stop engaging in such practices as the country takes more stringent measures to fight the coronavirus. So far there has been no response other than AT&T's.

One thing to note is that the data cap suspension is "indefinite" but may be halted as soon as the COVID-19 situation is under control again. The situation, however, could give critics of the data cap system proof that such practices are really unnecessary and that operators can continue to do business and even profit without such arbitrary limits.