Coronavirus and Connectivity
As federal COVID-19 relief is set to expire, Senate Republicans finally unveiled their "starting point" for negotiations between the Senate, the House, and the Administration. Two weeks ago, we wondered if extending broadband's reach and connecting more Americans would be part of the mix. Now we have the answer. At a time when working and learning from home are so important to keeping people healthy, Senate Republicans propose doing nothing to get more of us connected online.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to roll out a $1 trillion COVID-response bill as early as the week of July 20. There's no indication yet about whether broadband will be part of the package.
We urge Congress to establish a broadband credit — call it America’s Broadband Credit — to ensure many more people can afford high-speed Internet access. Congress could set a household subsidy of $50 per month, which is roughly the cost of medium-tier broadband plans in urban settings (and it could provide a higher subsidy for tribal lands). That subsidy would allow anyone and any device in the household to be connected to the Internet, simultaneously, which is how so many families today are operating.
We're all obviously aware of the unprecedented National Emergency President Donald Trump declared on March 13, 2020 and the shelter-at-home orders many have lived under in the last few months. Telework, telehealth, and distance education have all boomed during this time, testing residential broadband networks like never before. Back in the early weeks of the crisis, assessments based on data from broadband providers themselves and third-party internet traffic monitors led one policymaker to declare that surges in Internet traffic are well within the capacity of U.S.
On May 12, House Democrats unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. "We are presenting a plan to do what is necessary to address the corona crisis," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she announced the legislation.
Comcast says that a broadband reseller illegally sold Comcast Internet service in residential buildings in the Denver area and has terminated the connections to those buildings. The shutoff affected hundreds of people who live in buildings serviced by AlphaWiFi, "which installs and services Internet in approximately 90 apartment buildings across Denver." The shutoff came as a surprise to residents, including Kaley Warren, who has been working at home during the pandemic. "It is my entire lifeline," said Warren, who said that without warning her Internet service disappeared. "I felt lost.
New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) and Access Now filed comments urging the Federal Communications Commission to recognize the inadequate state of broadband availability in the United States.
Broadband speeds in the US have ticked up on average since March, easing fears of network disruptions as businesses widened the use of videoconferencing and other data-heavy tools during the pandemic. But even with the gains, many work-from-home employees continue to struggle with patchy internet connections, especially workers living in rural regions, employers say. As of July, average home internet speeds across the U.S.
On the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide: Life Without Internet Access And Why We Must Fix It In the Age of COVID-19
Prior to the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, Greenlining asked residents of two California communities, Fresno and Oakland, to share their struggles with internet access and found these common themes, all of which have been made more urgent by the pandemic: 1) Internet access is not a luxury, 2) Lack of access creates significant hurdles for everyday life, 3) Smartphone access is insufficient, 4) Internet plans designed for low-income families are inadequate, 5) Lack of access is a barrier to academic success.