TDS offers free broadband to some families, while Shentel ups speeds and data caps

Shentel and TDS are offering special broadband improvements and features to their subscribers to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. (Pixabay)

While most of the large ISPs, such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, are on board with waving late fees and removing data caps due to COVID-19, smaller operators are also doing their part.

On Monday, Shentel, which offers its broadband services in rural areas, announced it would temporarily increase its data speeds and data allowances. Shentel's footprint includes parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio, and in some of those areas its broadband service is key to both residential and business customers.

Shentel is bumping up the speed of every eligible small business and residential broadband customer to a minimum of 50 Mbps with a 750-gigabyte data cap at no additional charge to their current plans. It is also waiving installation fees for new broadband subscribers, and increasing data allowances by 250 gigabytes for all customers whose current rate plan includes a monthly data allowance. Shentel said the changes would go into effect immediately and run through April 30.

“We believe the decision to increase data speeds and allowances is a critical step to help our customers throughout our service area at this time of great uncertainty,” said Shentel President and CEO Christopher French, in a statement. “Shentel has served many of these markets for more than 100 years and cares deeply for the health and well being of our customers.

"By temporarily increasing the speeds and data allowances at no additional charge for our customers, we hope we are making the situation surrounding COVID-19 a little easier to deal with when they may be forced to work from home, do school work or attend classes virtually."

RELATED: More cable companies follow Comcast in lifting data caps

With more online learning and employees working from home due to COVID-19, Shentel also reassured its customers that its fiber facilities and equipment were geographically redundant in case one part of the network goes down.

Taking a different tack to address the coronavirus pandemic, TDS Telecommunications will provide free broadband access to low-income individuals and/or families with children and college students for 60 days. In order to verify eligibility for this offer, TDS said residents would be asked to provide documentation from qualifying programs.

TDS also signed on to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's "Keep America Connected" pledge that was announced last week. The main tenets of the policy related to voice and broadband services include: forego charging late payment penalties for customers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; suspend disconnections for customers due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic who fail to pay their bills; and open up Wi-Fi hot spots for non-subscribers over the next 60 days.