School districts are taking it upon themselves to help families get connected to the internet as they face down a long future of virtual learning. Most schools don't even know which students are lacking internet service, and the neediest families are often the hardest to reach. Perhaps the most ambitious initiative is a $50 million, public-private partnership in Chicago, which aims to provide 100,000 public school students with home internet service for four years. The most successful districts have maximized their purchasing power by partnering with other nearby districts or municipalities
Internet service providers' pledges to waive fees and forgive missed payments end on June 30, likely cutting off service for some families who can't pay their bills due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Congress hasn't included funding to pay for broadband bills in its previous COVID-19 packages.
Legal battles between cities and states are expected to intensify in the coming months with dust-ups over municipal broadband networks and other issues. After some high-profile disputes with governors over pandemic-related restrictions, some mayors are emboldened in pushing back on state laws prohibiting city-level policies that, they say, will be important to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumers are adopting stand-alone broadband services at a much higher rate than just two years ago, and analysts predict that the economic downturn prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak will accelerate the trend. With a recession looming, consumers may look to cut pay TV service in favor of more robust standalone internet packages once they're free to leave their homes. The broadband boom driven by the pandemic is likely to continue even after the virus dies down.
A slew of old-line industries that once hesitated to embrace digital technologies are now being forced to do so for the sake of survival. Once consumers get used to accessing services digitally — from older restaurants finally embracing online ordering, or newspapers finally going all-digital — these industries may find it hard to go back to traditional operations. Going virtual may open up new markets and new channels for engaging with consumers. But consumers will also likely rush to take part in out-of-home experiences once the pandemic eases and they can leave home again.
School districts are exploring ways to keep their homebound pupils connected to the classroom, even though many students don't have the internet service or devices they need to do assignments. Public-private partnerships are playing a central role. School districts don't have the budgets to pay for service or provide devices to families, so they're relying on nonprofits and private companies to fill the gaps.
Just how fast Americans can access 5G wireless service depends, in large part, on how effectively the guts of the network — namely, hundreds of thousands of bulky antennas — are placed in cities.
The tech industry's most consequential policy fights in 2020 will play out in the states, not Washington (DC). Momentum on a range of tech issues, from governing online privacy to regulating the gig economy, has stalled in DC as impeachment and election campaigns consume attention. State leaders and legislators are stepping in to fill the void. For example, California and Vermont are facing litigation over their attempts to impose their own net neutrality regulations after the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era open-internet rules. New York Gov.
While satellite pay-TV services are in a death spiral, modern satellite-powered broadband services are raising big investments and a lot of high expectations. Historically, satellite communications services have been seen as a last-resort option for people in remote areas or, in pay-TV's case, for consumers who wanted a lot of channels. But as more and more cord cutters are relying on all-purpose broadband connections and get the bulk of their small-screen entertainment via streaming options, satellite TV companies Dish and DirecTV are languishing.
A recent Census Bureau report found that several of the states that have fallen furthest behind on broadband access also have some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. From the beginning, broadband access was promoted as a means to reduce inequality between urban and rural America, but despite these programs to bridge this original "digital divide," stubborn gaps remains.