Coronavirus and Connectivity

Through our Headlines news service, Benton is tracking the role of broadband in the response to coronavirus (COVID-19). Click on titles below for full summaries of articles and links to sources.

A system-wide approach to digital equity: the Digital Access Coordinator program in primary care

The rapid transition to a digital front door of healthcare prompted by the pandemic made evident disparities in who had access to digital tools. Like other healthcare organizations, at the beginning of the pandemic, we found disparities in access to patient portals and video visits. Digital disparities are driven by multiple factors including lack of internet access, devices, language-adapted platforms as well as limited digital literacy.

Digital Literacy In the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities

In March 2021, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, along with Comcast, co-hosted a Digital Convening that brought together eighteen AANHPI serving organizations to discuss what the digital divide looks like in their respective communities. They discussed how the digital divide includes insufficient broadband access, a lack of equipment, and a need for greater education.

Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen Visits Comcast Stafford Rural Broadband Expansion Project

Despite the challenges we’ve faced, we’ve emerged stronger and poised for future growth. Investing in high-speed internet is an Administration-wide priority, with a goal of connecting every American by 2030. It’s a key example of our agenda to expand our economy’s capacity to produce in order to drive growth while increasing opportunity for people and places that haven’t had enough of it.

Windstream, Georgia Electric Co-Op Partner on $39 Million Public-Private Partnership

Windstream, Colquitt Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) and Lowndes County (GA), are teaming up on a $39 million public-private partnership to bring broadband to about 16,000 locations in the county. Windstream is contributing about $17.6 million. The other $21.7 million is funded through the Georgia State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the county. Windstream will handle cost overruns. The project, which will provide multi-gigabit service to users, will include 806 miles of fiber.

Congress’s Free Netflix Plan

Some 23 million households receive broadband subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program, which is more than the number on food stamps. Households qualify if they earn 200% or less than the poverty line or participate in other welfare programs such as Medicaid. This includes relatively affluent households with public-school students in localities like New York City that provide universal free school meals. Broadband providers have said in recent earnings calls that they don’t expect to lose many subscribers once the program ends.

Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Annual Report 2023

The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) to submit to relevant congressional committees and publish on its website an annual report that contains a description of OICG’s work for the previous year and the number of U.S.

How the Pandemic Changed Broadband

 There are several important changes to the broadband industry that came out of our collective pandemic experience.

Two Grants Will Expand Access To Broadband in Fayette and Wilton

The Maine Connectivity Authority awarded two grants to connect hard-to-reach locations in Fayette and Wilton with access to affordable, quality, high-speed internet. The Town of Fayette, in cooperation with Consolidated Communications, will receive a Connect the Ready grant of $1,875,000 to reach approximately 440 homes and businesses. The town of Wilton, also in collaboration with Consolidated Communications, will receive a Reach Me grant of $311,000 to connect approximately 169 hard-to-reach locations requiring underground infrastructure.

We need a permanent solution for universal broadband access

In August 2020, during the heart of the covid-19 pandemic when many schools were closed, social media and news outlets were awash with a picture of two grade school students sitting outside of a Taco Bell, attempting to do their schoolwork.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission Announces Application Period for Digital Connectivity and Navigators Program

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is now accepting grant applications for the Digital Connectivity and Navigators Program. This program aims to improve internet connectivity in the state by providing access to devices, technology, and digital navigators. Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the US Department of the Treasury awarded Wisconsin $33 million through the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to administer this program.