Coronavirus and Connectivity
The pandemic has widened long-existing inequities like the digital divide — the term used to refer to the fact that many people across the country lack access to affordable broadband due to a cycle of profit-driven discrimination. Congress cannot stand idly by while millions of people across the country are unable to connect with loved ones, work from home, engage in distance learning, take advantage of telehealth or otherwise fully participate in society because they lack affordable broadband access.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief a host of problems that at their core are about fairness—issues of racial justice, economic security, and the digital divide, among others. I am an optimist, and believe that technology, and the wireless communications sector in particular, has an important role to play here.
This election, Chicagoans will vote on a non-binding referendum about whether Chicago should ensure citywide access to broadband internet. The referendum provides a unique opportunity to envision a more innovative way to connect Illinoisans—through investment in an open access broadband network. The largest such network in operation in the US is the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA. In South Side neighborhoods where approximately fifty percent of the residents lack reliable internet service, open access broadband would be a game changer—the difference between eno
There’s no doubt that more patients and providers are relying on telehealth than ever before. But rural Americans are 10 times more likely to lack broadband access than their urban counterparts. This rural telehealth crisis must be addressed at the federal level. Whatever the total cost of solving the rural broadband challenge, it is clear that tens of billions of dollars in federal investment is needed. Critics may claim that the private sector can, and should, solve this problem. But if that were true, it would have already done so.
Locked Out of Remote School: In shelters without Wi-Fi, homeless kids can’t even get online for class.
Lack of Wi-Fi access has been plaguing New York City’s shelters for unhoused families for seven months now, where some 13,500 school-aged children of the 100,000 students in temporary housing citywide, have been enrolled in remote education since March. When schools initially shut down, the city sent hundreds of thousands of iPads with cell service to kids in shelters, but not all families received them, and those that did quickly began complaining that their connections were spotty, if they worked at all.
The coronavirus pandemic led millions of Americans to turn their homes into offices and classrooms. It also forced many to change their habits to keep their internet bills in check. The amount of time consumers spend streaming TV, gaming and using Zoom or other videoconference platforms substantially increased since the start of the pandemic, activities that often eat up large amounts of data.
American Connection Project organizations launch an interactive tool for users to locate more than 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations in 49 states
Several partner organizations announced the launch of the American Connection Project (ACP) interactive Wi-Fi map. The map provides a free resource to help the public locate more than 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations across 49 US states. The map includes Wi-Fi locations from Land O’Lakes, Inc.
The internet has grown into a utility, and internet access should be regulated as such. The position of the US government — not to mention phone and cable companies — is that the internet is a free-market service, full stop. It’s not a utility. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai says the internet industry merits only what he calls “light-touch” regulation, which is to say hardly any regulation at all. “The FCC’s light-touch approach is working,” Chairman Pai declared in 2019.
A group of 24 county officials from across the country have formed a broadband task force with the goal of creating a “blueprint” for closing the digital divide. Organized through the National Association of Counties, the task force is co-chaired by J.D. Clark, the county judge of Wise County, Texas, and Craig Rice, a member of the Montgomery County Council in Maryland.
The end-user rarely has to worry or even think about a lot of what domain name systems companies do to keep things humming along. Working primarily in the background, infrastructure companies provide a critical yet completely overlooked service, unless something out of the ordinary, like abuse of the domain name system, or general downtime, happens.