Your Guide to TV, Streaming, and Internet Service During the New Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak
Learn how to get low-cost and free TV, streaming, and internet service during COVID-19.
Stay connected during the new coronavirus outbreak
We’re all relying on our internet and TV service more than ever during the COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) pandemic. Between staying in touch with family, working from home, attending school online, or re-watching Tiger King on Netflix for the fifth time (no judgment—we can’t look away, either), staying connected is more vital now than ever.
We’re always here to answer your questions about TV and internet service at CableTV.com, and now we’ve compiled some common queries for these uncommon times during the new coronavirus crisis.
Can I get free internet service during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Those who qualify for select low-income programs can get free internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic, as can K–12 students and teachers. Some internet providers are even offering free internet service for 60 days. Check out our guide to free and low-income internet for more details.
|Internet provider||Service package||Who qualifies||Offer||How to get it|
|Xfinity||Internet Essentials (25 Mbps)||New Xfinity customers who are eligible for public assistance programs||Free for 60 days ($9.95/mo. after)||View plan|
|Cox||Internet (15 Mbps through Connect2Compete program)||New Cox customers with at least one K–12 student in household|
qualifying for public assistance programs
|Free for 30 days ($9.99/mo. after)||View plan|
|Spectrum||Internet (100 Mbps, no install fee)||New customers with K–12 or college students in household||Free for 60 days||Call 1-844-488-8395|
|Suddenlink||Internet (30 Mbps)||New customers with K–12 or college students in household||Free for 60 days||Call 1-888-633-0030|
|Optimum||Internet (30 Mbps)||New customers with K–12 or college students in household||Free for 60 days||Call 1-866-200-9522|
Data as of 03/27/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Will my internet service be shut off if I can’t pay my bill during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
If you’re concerned about having internet service shut off during this time, don’t worry too much. Every major US internet service provider has signed the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge.
The pledge states that, for 60 days after March 13, service won’t be terminated, late fees will be waived, and all Wi-Fi hotspots will be available to anyone.
Will my data cap be affected by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
In addition to signing the FCC’s pledge, some major internet service providers are lifting data caps on plans for two months or longer. Those ISPs include the following:
Under normal circumstances, most internet users wouldn’t have to worry about hitting their monthly data cap. Most ISPs set monthly limits at 1 TB (terabyte) or higher, which is the equivalent of streaming about 600 shows on Hulu. Now, with families isolating at home 24/7, that number doesn’t seem so big, and dropping data caps offers a bit of relief.
How much internet speed do I need to stream TV?
Most live and on-demand streaming TV services recommend a minimum of 5 Mbps (megabytes per second) of download speed to avoid buffering and fuzzy video.
That number is workable for a couple of people streaming to a single device, but not for every household—especially right now.
To keep up with multiple connected devices (and there are always multiple devices), CableTV.com recommends at least 25–100 Mbps of download speed. Fiber and cable internet deliver those speeds and higher; DSL usually maxes out around 35 Mbps, for reference.
Can I switch internet companies during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Think you need to switch internet providers in order to get service that can better handle your current online needs, but don’t want to incur an early-termination fee? Negotiate with the provider. It’s easier to work out an upgrade—even a temporary one—than break a contract.
If switching is your only option, look for a provider that offers discounts and bonuses to new subscribers (which is pretty much all of them). Saving a few bucks on sign-up can help offset an early-termination fee from your previous provider.
What TV can I stream for free during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Several paid streaming TV services (including premium channels) have expanded their free trial windows to a full 30 days to help take the edge off social distancing. Those services include streaming TV heavy hitters like Hulu and Netflix.
Sling TV is offering 14 days of free livestreaming TV service with no sign-up required. Its “Stay in and Sling” promotion gives access to a select number of live entertainment and news channels and on-demand movies and shows.
There are also hundreds of free streaming apps available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and gaming devices. These apps feature thousands of free movies, TV shows, documentaries, sports, and other free content—you’ll just have to put up with a few ads, is all.
How can I stream FOX News for free during the novel coronavirus?
Viewers can watch FOX News for free during the coronavirus outbreak on Fox.com and the FOX app. On FOX’s website, just scroll below your local FOX affiliate stream and click play.
FYI: usually, you have to sign in with a cable login to stream FOX News.
What new TV streaming services are launching during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Both NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV streaming service and HBO Max are still planning on launching during the pandemic. Peacock will be available as a free preview (starting April 15) for Xfinity internet customers who have the Xfinity Flex streaming device. HBO Max will be offering free access to current HBO NOW customers starting in May.
Will new TV shows and movies be released during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Most TV shows produced before the COVID-19 outbreak will premiere as previously scheduled. These include highly anticipated premieres like What We Do in the Shadows (April 15 on FX), Killing Eve (April 12 on BBC America), and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (April 26 on SHOWTIME).
Some series, however, had to cut production short when COVID-19 hit.
A handful of major studio movies that were in theaters just weeks ago have been made available to stream at home through paid video on demand (VOD). The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt were among the first to show up on VOD, followed by Birds of Prey, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, and Bad Boys for Life, among others.
Expect more displaced VOD releases in the weeks to come, and don’t even bother with Vin Diesel’s craptastic Bloodshot. Self-isolation is already bad enough.
Is Netflix reducing its service’s streaming quality during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
To conserve bandwidth during this drastic social-distancing viewing spike, Netflix has cut its streaming bit rate by 25%—in Europe alone. The reduction, which affects HD picture quality, is expected to stay in place for 30 days.
Netflix hasn’t announced any similar bandwidth reductions for other parts of the world yet, but you may want to check out Tiger King soon just in case—it’s a distraction that deserves full HD.
What are the best home workout apps to use during coronavirus?
For those of you who relied on a gym or group classes to stay active, your routine has probably been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic social-distancing efforts. Fortunately, there are plenty of home workout apps offering free or discounted classes to help you out.
Of course, finances might be a bit strained right now, and a little more “free” could be welcomed in your diet. No worries—there are quite a few services, individuals, and apps with free TV workouts available right now.
Will my cable TV be shut off during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
We don’t think your cable TV service will be shut off during the COVID-19 outbreak—even if you can’t pay your bill because of unemployment. Most major cable providers have signed the FCC pledge to continue service during the pandemic.
Can I cancel my TV service during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Of course, you can cancel your TV service during COVID-19. Just be careful of early termination fees (ETFs) if you subscribe to a cable TV or satellite TV service. We’re not sure if they’ll apply during the pandemic, so you’ll want to double-check.
Sometimes it’s better to downgrade your TV plan instead of paying an expensive cancellation fee. If you’re willing to settle for a TV plan that’s a little cheaper, you can switch to a no-contract TV provider that buys out contracts and downgrade your plan without incurring fees.