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Internet Providers Temporarily Suspend Their Data Caps, Downloads Of Communication Apps Surge …

Written by on March 18, 2020

MIKE MCGEE

Mike McGee is the Director of Special Projects at AnitaB.org, nonprofit social enterprise committed to increasing the representation of women technologists in the global workforce.

He is also our senior tech correspondent bringing us the latest in tech news. He spoke to Jill Hopkins about what the coronavirus has meant for tech-consumption.

Unsurprisingly, amid coronavirus outbreak, tech companies report a surge in business and communication app downloads as more and more workplaces turn to work from home. Some business and service apps are waiving their fees throughout the duration of the crisis. Among them is Grubhub, who are temporarily suspending commission fees for impacted independent restaurants of up to $100 million. This will certainly help restaurants in Illinois, as Governor JB Pritzker mandated on Sunday that all bars and restaurants close for dine-in customers until March 30th. Restaurants may remain open for take-out and drive-through. And finally, internet providers are responding to the ongoing coronavirus. Comcast and T-Mobile have announced that they will suspend internet data caps for the next 60 days.


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This is all very new to me. And I’m glad that you have brought us some information that can help me and anybody else listening who is not used to working from home. Just some tips and tricks and apps and things that we can all get on board with. Tell me about these teleconference apps and this new surge in demand.

Many tech companies – a lot of information technology companies that have offices but their employees work from their laptops – they’ve been instituting work from home policies. As of Monday, most of those companies are pretty much banning their employees from coming to the office. As a consequence, there have been a lot of downloads of business apps.

Apps like Zoom, which is a video conferencing/phone conferencing application. You have Slack, which is work communications [for] mobile and desktop. Microsoft has products called Microsoft Teams. A lot of these apps over the past week have been downloaded kinda 5x what they normally are. Millions of new users over the past week for these applications.

Do you have any preferences in teleconferencing apps? What do you use? What do you like the most?

Zoom is a great video conferencing app – really easy to set up. You actually don’t even need to set up an account to participate in a Zoom meeting. Super easy to record meetings, super easy to chat and do screen recordings as well. So a really simple tool to use if you’re new to video conferencing or working remotely. They have some starter accounts and the Zoom CEO is offering free accounts to schools and other underrepresented organizations.

Obviously Google Hangouts if you have a Gmail account or have any of the many Google products. Google Hangouts is free to use. And then there’s Skype.

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We are all stuck at home, whether we want to be or not. And you can go to the grocery store, you can stock up on food to cook, but sometimes I want a giant Detroit style pizza. [laughs] Grubhub seems to have embraced the fact that we’re all going to be at home and the fact the restaurants still need to make money. How is Grubhub down with the sickness?

The CEO announced in the statement over the weekend that they’re temporarily suspending commission fees for impacted, independent restaurants, up to 100 million dollars. This isn’t for the major chains – the Taco Bells, McDonald’s, any other major national chain – but for the community, independent restaurants.

Those fees can, over many orders, represent a significant chunk of change, so Grubhub is stepping up and suspending those fees. Especially with the order from the governor to suspend dine-in activity of restaurants and bars – it’s all takeout – this is really helpful for those restaurants to stay open and stay in business.

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We’ve got so many folks that listen to the show – so many folks in our personal lives – who are in the foodservice industry and are being hit hard. Any reminders for folks on how they should be treating their delivery drivers and how they should be speaking to folks that still have to go to work and are really depending on all of us to help them pay their bills?

Really what this whole coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from it has taught me is…most of the things that we should do every day, we should especially be doing now! Don’t be racist, be respectful, wash your hands – all these really simple tips we take for granted, we’re not taking for granted now.

Grubhub, along with other delivery apps like Postmates and Caviar, are setting up no-contact delivery. So if you feel uncomfortable with personally grabbing meals – even though it has been shown, at least from experts, that you can’t get coronavirus from the actual food – but if you want to minimize human to human contact, you can set up no-contact deliveries. They specify where they can place their delivery: outside the door, in your apartment lobby.

But also, the general thing is really I would tip these delivery service people 2x more than you normally do. Because there’s probably less orders even with this takeout and delivery options available. I would say tip, tip well, and tip some more. Give them words of encouragement as well, but also give them money.

Grubhub cited that restaurant traffic could plunge as much as 75% over the next few weeks. And obviously this ban is currently only going to March 30, but seeing the trends of how everything else has been extended, we could be in the situation for much longer. So if you have to order delivery, make sure to support your fellow human by tipping them extra well and giving them a word of encouragement.

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Tell us how the next 60 days are shaking out with Comcast and T-Mobile.

Comcast and T-Mobile announced suspensions of their internet data cap policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Comcast says they’ll no longer charge overage fees for home internet customers that go over their broadband caps. And then T-Mobile said they’ll be removing all data caps for their mobile customers.

AT&T and Verizon have also taken similar measures. All of these major telecommunications companies are gonna be suspending those limits for the next 60 days. Hotspots for T-Mobile are being extended. So if you set up a mobile hotspot, if you’re in an internet dead zone, they’re extending those hotspots up to 20 gigabytes, which is a pretty significant upgrade. It kind of shows me personally that these data caps are arbitrary.

Since Comcast, T Mobile, AT&T and Verizon represent pretty much the entire country, if you’re on the internet or use data on your phone, we should all be seeing the temporary benefits of these announcements.