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.

The Internet is Not Working for Everyone

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.

Broadband HEROES

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.

America’s Broadband Moment: Making Broadband Affordable

The time has come for Congress to establish a broadband credit—call it America’s Broadband Credit (ABC)—to ensure that people who can’t afford broadband can use broadband. The debate on whether broadband is a luxury or an essential connection to society is over. Broadband is critical, as Americans have now learned as they work, study, consult doctors, socialize, shop—and really lead their lives from home. But for too many, especially the newly unemployed, the cost of broadband service is not affordable.

Chairman Pai Extends Keep Americans Connected Pledge Through June 30

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the extension of his Keep Americans Connected Pledge until June 30, 2020. While the FCC encourages all providers that have signed the pledge previously to extend their commitments to June 30, we understand that some providers, particularly those in small markets and rural areas, may not be able to do so as a result of financial challenges. Those providers should contact [email protected] by May 12 if they wish to opt out of the extension.

America’s Broadband Moment

The debate on whether broadband is a luxury or an essential connection to society is over. More than twice as many people are now using residential broadband during business hours as before the COVID-19 crisis. Over 55 million students have been impacted by school closures. The use of telehealth has skyrocketed. This, I believe, is our broadband moment: a hinge of history that will determine whether today’s residential broadband is fit for the changed world in which we inhabit or whether its limits work to disadvantage those that are not equipped to use it.

What are ISPs Doing to Get More People Online at Home During the Pandemic?

"For social distancing to work, home-isolation has to be bearable for everyone." The Washington Post came to that conclusion on March 29, 16 days after President Trump declared the spread of COVID-19 a national emergency.

Making Internet service a utility—what’s the worst that could happen?

It's 2020, and a coronavirus pandemic has underscored how crucial broadband service is to the lives of Americans for work, entertainment, and school. Internet service is a necessity, and yet it isn't regulated as a utility. But back in 2014 (when this story was originally published) and 2015, there was a hot debate over whether the Federal Communications Commission should treat broadband service like a utility—or, more precisely, as a Title II common-carrier service—in order to impose net neutrality rules.

For some students, getting online means using a parking lot

For most students, getting ready for school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic now simply involves opening up their computer and turning on their video camera. However, for a sizable group of students who do not have access to the internet, the classroom—which once was filled with a teacher, other students, and desks—is now an empty parking lot close to a reachable Wi-Fi network. Some school districts are scrambling to supply students with devices to reach online schooling.

COVID-19 and Broadband Speeds: A Multi-Country Analysis

COVID-19 has forced the residents of many nations to shelter-in-place, either by choice or by mandate. As a result, Internet use has skyrocketed, putting stress on both fixed and mobile broadband networks. An early look at the performance of broadband networks with respect to download speeds. Using weekly speed data for fixed and mobile networks for months preceding and following March 2020, Ford finds sizable reductions in speed for several countries, but also some increases in speed.

‘Digital Deserts’ Send Doctors Out on House Calls to Fight Virus

The Federal Communications Commission in April estimated that 22.3% of Americans in rural areas and 27.7% of Americans on tribal lands don’t have access to fixed broadband with the typical speed standard of 25 megabits per second (mbps), a moderate browsing speed. By comparison, only 1.5% of Americans in urban areas can’t reach that speed. Nearly 21% of Americans also aren’t active smartphone users, according to market research.