Verizon girds network in the face of coronavirus, AT&T suspends data caps

Verizon is gearing up for the impact of the coronavirus, which includes more telecommuting and online learning, by increasing its capital guidance range.

In order to speed up its 5G deployment and to help support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, Verizon announced on Thursday that it has increased its capital guidance range from $17 billion-$17.5 billion to $17.5 billion-$18 billion in 2020.

Despite an increasing number of businesses, schools and other organizations asking students and employees to work from home, Verizon said it hasn't seen a measurable increase of data usage since the emergence of the coronavirus. With more people working from home, the coronavirus could cause an increase in streaming video traffic and web conferencing, which are both bandwidth-intensive.

"Delivering reliable networks is what we do," said Kyle Malady, Verizon’s chief technology officer. "While this is an unprecedented situation, we know things are changing, and we are ready to adjust network resources as we better understand any shifts in demand. We have the best engineers in the world monitoring the situation closely.”

Mirroring Verizon, CenturyLink has yet to see a noticeable impact on its network due to the coronavirus, which is also known as COVID-19.

"Currently, we are seeing no unusual impacts to our network. However, we know how quickly things can change," according to a CenturyLink spokesperson, in an email Friday morning to FierceTelecom. "Our Network Operations Center is constantly monitoring network usage and our teams can quickly add capability, modify paths, and shape traffic to meet the changing needs of our customers."

As of Friday morning, at least 1,663 people in 46 states and Washington, D.C. have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 41 patients with the virus have died.

Verizon is keeping its finger on the pulse of network traffic and said it would it would prioritize its network for first responders and public safety officials.Verizon offered up a range of tips on its website for businesses that are now faced with larger remote workforces.

AT&T lifts data caps

While Verizon touted its network preparedness, AT&T will be suspending all broadband usage caps, according to a story by Motherboard. Motherboard reported that AT&T was the first major ISP to lift its broadband data caps due to the coronavirus.

“Many of our AT&T Internet customers already have unlimited home internet access, and we are waiving internet data overage for the remaining customers,” AT&T said on its website. "Additionally, through Access from AT&T we’ll continue to offer internet data to qualifying limited income households for $10 a month."

Motherboard also reported that a group of 17 senators sent a letter on Thursday to the CEOs of Comcast Cable, Charter Communications, AT&T, Verizon, Cox Communications, Sprint, CenturyLink and T-Mobile asking them to suspend data caps and throttling.

"As organizations around the country formulate their responses to the recent outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, we write to discuss the steps that your company is taking to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services,” according to the letter. “Specifically, we ask that you temporarily suspend broadband caps and associated fees or throttling for all communities affected by COVID-19 and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost, broadband options for students whose schools close due to COVID-19 who don’t have access at home.”