AT&T, Verizon CEOs talk coronavirus connection plans with Trump

Telecom network providers help with social distancing

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A group of telecom network companies’ CEOs updated President Trump on their status amid the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday.

“There has never been a more important time to keep Americans connected through the internet,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted.

The call included the CEOs of LionTree, Sprint, Altice USA, Liberty Media, Comcast Corporation, Charter Communications, T-Mobile US, AT&T and Verizon Communications, Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told FOX News.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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The president thanked the CEOs and their staffs for their work to keep Americans connected during the pandemic, according to Deere.

“We’re proud to highlight Verizon’s network performance with the president of the United States,” Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg told FOX Business in a written statement. “Our network is providing a necessary lifeline today — and every day — and continues to operate the way our customers have come to expect.”

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg speaks on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in October. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

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Network providers have seen a surge of activity as the coronavirus pandemic has millions of Americans avoiding in-person interaction and, those who can, working from home. Comcast said it has seen a 32 percent increase in peak traffic since March 1. Verizon reported a 47 percent week-over-week increase in collaboration tools used primarily for remote work and online learning last week.

“We are seeing tremendous amounts of usage across our networks as our customers are finding new and important ways of staying connected,” Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady previously said in a press release. “Our engineers are carefully watching changes and trends in network usage, which seems to be normalizing, and are adjusting capacity as needed.”

Several telecom companies have taken steps to ensure their customers can remain connected while practicing social distancing, such as waiving fees for data overages and opening Wi-Fi hotspots for students stuck at home.

“America’s communications providers are playing a vital role during this emergency,” Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of industry organization USTelecom, told FOX Business in a written statement. “That our communications networks are keeping us connected through telework, distance learning and telehealth while continuing to enable news, commerce and entertainment is no accident. It represents billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and innovation to build networks capable of meeting this moment of unprecedented demand. Our shared connectivity is also a testament to frontline broadband employees – who remain on the job at this very moment – and have dedicated themselves to maintaining the health and security of our broadband networks, and the countless communities and citizens they connect. They deserve a special recognition too.”

An AT&T store in Madison Heights, Michigan.

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The companies have also been looking to protect their workers, temporarily shuttering many storefronts, and some like AT&T have offered increased pay to needed front-line workers.

“Connectivity is always essential to our customers – doctors and nurses, first responders, governments, banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and others delivering vital services,” AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh wrote in an open letter earlier this month. “It’s even more critical during a public health crisis that’s challenging everyone. In fact, as a critical infrastructure provider, AT&T believes we have a civic duty to step up and keep our customers and communities connected.”

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