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.

Building the Best Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

With passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission has but a few weeks to craft rules for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a new effort that will allow low-income households to receive a discount off the cost of monthly broadband service and certain connected devices during the COVID-19 national emergency.

The Last Broadband Gifts From the 116th Congress

With great drama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2021. The $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending bill extended unemployment benefits and ensured the government can keep running. The $900 billion COVID relief provision includes over $7 billion to help improve connectivity in the U.S.

Creating (Finally) an Emergency Broadband Benefit

More than nine months after the national COVID-19 emergency was declared, Congress has directed the Federal Communications Commission to create an emergency broadband benefit, a monthly discount on broadband internet access service for low-income people. On January 4, the FCC released a Public Notice asking for comment on how to best implement this new program which Congress expects to be up and running in the next two months. Here's a look at what the FCC is asking.

FCC Seeks Public Input On New $3.2 Billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

On December 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Consolidated Appropriations Act or Act). Section 904 of Division N – Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief, Title IX – Broadband Internet Access Service, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act establishes an Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund of $3.2 billion and directs the Federal Communications Commission to use that fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, under which eligible households may receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devi

ISPs Say They Kept Virus Pledge, But Customers Disagree

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission pushed internet service providers to promise they wouldn't penalize customers who struggled to pay their internet bills when they needed connectivity the most. More than 800 companies signed onto the Keep Americans Connected pledge, a commitment to not disconnect customers who were behind on their bills or charge late-payment fees that drew effusive praise from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Broadband for America Now

In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).

Education Advocates Ask FCC to Close Remote Learning Gap

A coalition of education advocates petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to close the remote learning gap for the estimated 15 to 16 million students who lack home internet access. If granted, the petition would allow schools and libraries to connect these disconnected learners using funding from the E-rate program.

Cable operators are extending their broadband networks deeper into less-populated areas

Cable operators smashed records in 2020, adding more than 4 million customers in the first nine months of that year, fueled in part by the pandemic. But as hopes rise that COVID-19 will loosen its grip on the country, sending more people back to offices and schools and potentially softening broadband gains, many providers are looking toward the fringes of their footprints and extending their networks deeper into less-populated areas for growth. Extending the footprint, or making “edge-outs,” is nothing new for the industry.

OTI to FCC: Make the Emergency Broadband Benefit a ‘Rapid Success’

New America's Open Technology Institute urged the Federal Communications Commission to quickly and successfully implement the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a new subsidy to help low-income people pay for broadband service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide $50 per month to qualifying low-income households and $75 in Tribal areas. OTI’s comments made the following recommendations: