We imagine that many of you, like us, have been making frantic calls to friends and family in Japan over the last few days without regard to the costs. Now, in the face of otherwise devastating news, we have some good news to share courtesy of AT&T. Ma Bell is offering wired and wireless billing relief for calls made on AT&T between March 11th and March 31st. Under the plan, AT&T wireless postpaid customers will not be charged for international long distance or text messages to Japan from the US and Puerto Rico. Likewise, residential wireline customers can seek credits for up to 60 minutes of direct dialing to Japan. Sure it's a shameless publicity grab but this one seems genuinely helpful.

Update: Sprint and Verizon have both now elected to waive call and text message fees (in Verizon's case, the move applies both to landline and wireless numbers).

Update 2: Dish Networks is also getting in on helping people stay up to date. Boris wrote in to let us know you can now watch TV Japan for free as well.

Update 3: Comcast is also in the game, providing free calls for Xfinity Voice and Business Class Voice customers.

Update 4: And that ain't all! Cox Communications has announced that calls and texts placed to Japan with Cox Digital Telephone and Cox Wireless will be free of charge through March 31.

Update 5: Kelly let us know that Verizon has added Japan TV for free for FIOS subscribers too.

Update 6: Don't worry, pay-as-you-go customers: Cricket has been kind enough to inform us that their customers will be able to make phone calls effective immediately, until March 29.
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AT&T Offers Wireless, Wireline Billing Relief for Consumers Calling and Texting Family, Friends in Japan

DALLAS, March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- AT&T* today announced it has implemented international calling and texting support efforts for U.S. residential wireless and wireline consumers trying to connect with loved ones in Japan, following last week's tragic earthquake and tsunami.

Effective beginning last week, March 11, and continuing through March 31, AT&T wireless postpaid customers will not be charged for:
  • International long distance usage from the United States and Puerto Rico to Japan
  • Text messages to Japan, originated from a U.S. wireless number
In addition, and also effective March 11 through March 31, residential wireline customers can seek credits for up to 60 minutes of direct dial calling to Japan:
  • Upon receiving their wireline bill, customers may call AT&T to receive adjusted calling for up to 60 minutes. In other words, no charges for up to 60 minutes of call time from the United States to Japan between March 11 and March 31.
For any of the above activity, customers will either see no charges reflected on their monthly statement, or they will see a full credit applied to their statement for activity between March 11 and March 31.

"We want to help our customers connect with loved ones in Japan in anyway we can," said Mark Collins, senior vice president, Voice and Data Products, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "Connecting with family and friends is most important at times like this- we want to make it as easy and worry free as possible for our customers."

Still available, AT&T wireless customers can text "redcross" to 90999 to give a $10 donation to help the Red Cross with disaster support efforts in the area. No text message fees apply.

And, TV Japan – the 24 hour Japanese news channel – is available for free through March 17 to all U-verse® TV subscribers, allowing viewers to follow the news and recovery efforts. TV Japan can be found on channel 3680.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.