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.

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.

Biden's openings for tech progress

Closing the digital divide will be a high priority for the Biden administration, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely. Much of the responsibility for addressing that gap will fall to the Federal Communications Commission, which is certain to make the effort its first priority. The FCC's gears don't move fast enough to flood the country with dollars for broadband on Biden's day one.

How Free Internet for Students in ‘Gig City’ Will Outlast the Pandemic

In the summer of 2020, the Hamilton County (TN) public school system – which encompasses the city of Chattanooga – announced it would be providing high-speed internet access to families with students on free or reduced lunch plans through a program called EdConnect. The service is funded through the next ten years, the school board says, meaning the free high-speed internet should well outlast the pandemic.

10 Years Of U.S. Broadband Policy Has Been A Colossal Failure

Nov 18th, 2020 marked 3900 days since the Federal Communications Commission launched its heavily-hyped "National Broadband Plan." 400 days ago, I penned an op-ed for the Benton Institute which assessed how the FCC had been unable to achieve any of the benchmarks or meet any of the six stated goals of the plan. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that another year didn’t fix very much of the shortcomings I identified then.

Rural latino communities need internet access

With nearly 1,000 rural Latino communities spread across the country, rural internet access has long been a priority for Latinos. But the past eight months have created a new sense of urgency. Recently, 19 national organizations representing communities of color, many of them Latino, recently petitioned the Federal Communications Commission.  While the details are complicated, the outcome is not: expanding high-speed internet would be faster and more affordable, benefitting Latino families in rural communities across America.

AT&T CFO: Fiber is a three-for-one revenue opportunity

AT&T CFO John Stephens said that adding more fiber was about more than just passing additional homes. "I think about the fiber being part of my core transport network, and serving business customers and connecting to large business customers and small business customers, and then I think of it as an opportunity to connect the homes," he said. "So I have a three-for-one in this integrated carrier environment that really gives me a different opportunity than others. When I say three-for-one, that's three revenue opportunities, as well as a really efficient cost structure.

Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion dollar push to boost US broadband

President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats are laying the groundwork to seek a massive increase in federal broadband spending in 2021, hoping they can secure billions of dollars in new government aid to improve Internet access and affordability — and help people stay online during the pandemic. Party leaders are mulling a wide array of proposals that would extend the availability of broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas, raise Internet speeds for American households, assist families who are struggling to pay their Internet bills and provide more funding to schools for comput

Pandemic highlights Montana's digital divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on Montana’s widening digital divide. Working from home, online school and telehealth have all become pandemic necessities, but many Montanans don’t have access to adequate broadband internet. Cooperatives across the state said that the digital divide doesn’t exist solely between urban and rural Montana like many people believe. “Yes, there is a digital divide in Montana,” said Jason Williams, CEO of Blackfoot Communications in Missoula.

Commissioner Starks Keynote Remarks at Rainbow PUSH Coalition Symposium

Our failure to create inclusive policies that close the digital divide has done serious harm to the Americans who were already struggling to put food on their tables prior to the pandemic. The failures of our past, however, do not have to dictate the future. It is time—in fact, it is past,time—for the tech and telecom sector to take account for issues of equity and fairness. 

Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

GAO reviewed distance learning plans from a nongeneralizable group of 15 school districts, selected for their high proportion of either English learners or students with disabilities.