Major telecoms suspend data limits on home internet plans in response to COVID-19 teleworking surge

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Videotron, Telus, Rogers and Bell are suspending data limits on their home internet plans as a growing number of Canadians start teleworking in response to COVID-19. 

Videotron was the first telecom to suspend caps, announcing the decision early Friday afternoon. Rogers, then Telus followed suit on Friday. On Saturday afternoon, a little over 24 hours after Videotron’s decision, Bell joined the other telecoms.

On Thursday, U.S. telecom AT&T suspended broadband data caps for home internet customers because of COVID-19. Quebec-based Videotron is going a step further, cutting data-limit user fees for all their current residential and business customers’ internet plans until March 31. Videotron will apply the measures automatically to all accounts. 

Talking Point

Rogers, Telus, Videotron and Bell are suspending data limits on home internet plans in response to a surge of Canadians teleworking as COVID-19 spreads. Global internet traffic was up 56 per cent Friday compared to the 60-day-over-day rolling average, according to Akamai’s global internet condition monitor. Shaw is making some television channels free.

“To help Québec organizations and businesses implement effective teleworking measures, Videotron is suspending data limits,” the company said in an emailed statement. 

On Friday afternoon Rogers told The Logic it would lift data caps for all home internet plans until May 31. 

“We know how important it is for our customers to stay connected, especially with the pressures of school closures, self-quarantines and work-from-home initiatives during this evolving public health issue,” said Zac Carreiro, a Rogers spokesperson.

“Our business continuity team is working tirelessly with our network engineers to ensure our national wireless and business services, emergency services such as 911, and home internet continue to run seamlessly.”

Telus will waive home internet overage charges through the end of April, and will also get rid of roaming charges for Telus and Koodo customers “that are stuck in areas with Level 3 advisories, such as China and Italy, and are unable to return to Canada through the end of April,” company spokesperson Brandi Rees told The Logic. 

Telus will also provide flexible payment options for customers in financial difficulty because of COVID-19. “We don’t want anyone to worry about not being able to pay their bill on time if they have been financially affected by the crisis,” said Rees. In addition, the firm is expanding its virtual healthcare capabilities on its Akira Health app, which is available nationwide, and its Babylon by Telus Health app, which is available in Ontario, B.C., and Alberta. Both apps connect people to medical professionals via their phones. 

“In response to an increase in demand for healthcare technology services, we are training additional care practitioners so that we can provide increased support on these channels, which will help prevent the spread of infection. Canadians need information validated by health authorities that will give them clarity and direction, while in the safety of their own home,” said Rees. 

TekSavvy will not charge current customers for overage fees either, the firm’s CEO Marc Gaudrault, told The Logic. 

As Canadians will work from home and families stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, TekSavvy is suspending billing for overages for current TekSavvy customers on capped packages, effective immediately until April 5, 2020,” said Gauldrault.

Shaw does not have hard data caps on internet plans but the firm will be giving cable customers access to some free television channels. 

“Since March 1, all Shaw Cable [and Shaw Direct] customers will be given access to a number of channels on free preview to help keep their family entertained. Free preview channels include Family, Family JR, Family CHRGD,” Chethan Lakshman, Shaw Communications’ external affairs vice-president, told The Logic. The channels will remain free until March 31.

Global internet traffic was up 56 per cent Friday compared to the 60-day-over-day rolling average, according to Akamai’s global internet condition monitor.

Lakshman said Shaw is ready to handle a surge in demand. 

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Shaw’s network now has the most upload capacity of any Cable operator in Canada, and the ability to deploy new download capacity virtually overnight if needed. We are confident these upgrades to our industry leading network enable us to handle expected usage increases that our customers and businesses may drive as a result of increased remote working.”

On Saturday afternoon Bell said it would also be suspending data caps. 

“To help customers during COVID-19 situation we will be waiving any additional usage fees for Bell residential Internet customers starting today to the end of April. It covers all Bell customers (also including Bell Aliant, Bell MTS and Virgin Home Internet) not already on unlimited home Internet plans,”Caroline Audet, Bell’s senior manager for media relations, told The Logic. 

Asked about data caps and its COVID-19 response, SaskTel said it would be making an announcement on Monday. 

“In interim, I can tell you that all of SaskTel’s Home Internet plans already have unlimited data but we will have more details on our Wireless plans on Monday,” said Michelle Englot, SaskTel’s director of external communications. 

With files from Murad Hemmadi

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