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.

Treasury Announces First Capital Projects Fund Awards to Increase Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet

The Department of the Treasury announced the first group of plans approved under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF). The CPF provides $10 billion to states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments to fund critical capital projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring in response to the public health emergency.

Broadband in Five Years

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) joined Glen Echo Group CEO Maura Corbett for a conversation at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s 40th Anniversary celebration. In the wake of the unprecedented investment in broadband included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Corbett asked Clyburn where he thinks we’ll be in five years. “Oh, in five years,” Clyburn answered, “I think this is going to be a successful venture.” Representative Clyburn said attention now turns to states, like his home, South Carolina.

Three Data Points to Help Plan for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Broadband Funding

As policymakers begin to plan how to use Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds to increase broadband connectivity, there are three important data points from two recent surveys to keep in mind:

  1. Some 32% of households are subscription vulnerable, that is, they struggle to maintain service and have a very difficult time affording service.
  2. Only 18% of cellphone-only respondents were “very satisfied” with their online access for activities such as school or work, activities that moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Action Needed Now to Preserve an Essential Lifeline During the Pandemic

Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to essential communications services, like phones and broadband. You may not have heard much about it, but a universal service crisis is right around the corner. Due to Federal Communications Commission inaction, nearly 800,000 people could lose phone service on December 1. On that day, changes in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides a modest monthly discount for communications services, mean that voice-only services like a home landline telephone and/or a cellphone will no longer be eligible for the discount.

First Awards Distributed Under Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan Programs

The US Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration has begun awarding its historic $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. EDA awarded $24 million in grants to states and territories across the nation for statewide planning efforts to boost economic development, enhance US competitiveness, combat the climate crisis, and recover from the pandemic. EDA will fun

FCC Commits Over $1.2 Billion in First Emergency Connectivity Funding Wave

The Federal Communications Commission is committing $1,203,107,496.88 for 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia that applied for support from the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. This first wave of funding commitments will provide students, school staff and library patrons in all 50 states and Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia access to the devices and broadband connectivity they need to support their off-campus education needs.

Lifeline Needs A Lifeline

In less than three months, nearly 800,000 low-income people who receive telephone subsidies through the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline program will be negatively impacted by changes scheduled to go into effect at the Federal Communications Commission on December 1, 2021. The FCC needs to change course and help more Americans keep connected to communications services that are essential to navigate the ongoing public health and economic crisis. Most importantly, the FCC should act swiftly and hit the pause button on the 2016 plan to zero-out support for voice-only services.

Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund Guidance Now Available

The Department of the Treasury released guidance for the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund program established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The program allocates $10 billion for eligible governments to carry out critical capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Internet and the Pandemic

Results from a new survey of US adults reveal the extent to which people’s use of the internet has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, their views about how helpful technology has been for them and the struggles some have faced. The vast majority of adults (90%) say the internet has been at least important to them personally during the pandemic, the survey finds. The share who say it has been essential – 58% – is up slightly from 53% in April 2020.

NTIA Establishes Two Broadband-Focused Offices

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) established the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) and the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI). The changes to NTIA’s organizational structure were adopted on August 13, 2021, in a new Department Organization Order (DOO), which replaced a previous DOO dated September 2012.