Comcast offers free Wi-Fi hot spots and eliminates data caps in response to outbreak

By Elise Takahama

The Seattle Times

Comcast, one of the state’s largest internet providers, announced Friday it would open free public Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the country, as part of its response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. It will also eliminate data caps for its customers.

“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet — for education, work, and personal health reasons,” said Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson in a Friday statement. “Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the same belief that it’s our Company’s responsibility to step up and help out.”

The company will implement the new policies for the next 60 days, the statement said. The free public hot spots, which are going to become available in the next few business days, will be spread throughout the state and mainly located in areas like parks or near shopping districts or small businesses, said Comcast spokesman Nick McDonald.

Comcast will open up about 65,000 hot spots for free, public use in Washington, McDonald said. There’s a total of about 1.6 million hot spots — public and private — in the state, he said.

In addition to offering free Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots and upgrading customers to unlimited data plans, Comcast is also promising not to disconnect a customer’s internet services or issue late fees if customers can’t pay their bills during this time.

“Our care teams will be available to offer flexible payment options and can help find other solutions,” the statement said.

Comcast, in partnership with Common Sense Media, also is creating educational collections on X1 — the company’s TV and entertainment service — and Flex — its streaming device — for students in all grade levels. Just say “education” into the X1 or Flex voice remote, the statement said.

These new policies come a day after Comcast announced customers can use its Internet Essentials service for free for 60 days. The service usually costs $9.95 per month for low-income households.