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.

Reps Eshoo and Young Introduce Bill to Expand Telehealth During Pandemic

House Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 6474, the Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act, a bipartisan bill to provide $2 billion to expand telehealth and high-quality internet connectivity at public and nonprofit healthcare facilities, including mobile clinics and temporary health facilities deployed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare providers pay an average of over $40,000 per year for broadband connectivity.

ReConnect Program Update

On December 12, 2019, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a Rural Development agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) and solicitation of applications for the Broadband Pilot (ReConnect) Program in the Federal Register. On March 31, 2020, RUS published a Notice in the Federal Register to extend the application window to April 15, 2020.

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.

Robert McDowell: A COVID-19 Survivor’s Story

When communications attorney Robert McDowell started feeling a little under the weather in March, he chalked it up to seasonal allergies and related bronchitis and got the usual antibiotic from his primary care physician. Then his symptoms worsened. It wasn’t seasonal allergies. After a trip to the hospital and back home again, the former Federal Communications Commissioner was re-admitted with what turned out to be COVID-19-related double pneumonia.

FCC Provides TV Stations Flexibility to Air Local Community Events, Like Religious Services

The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau issued a temporary, limited waiver to TV broadcasters to enable them to more easily air live and taped same-day local content, like religious services, during time slots regularly dedicated to children's programming

Ed Secretary DeVos Rapidly Delivers More Than $6 Billion in Emergency Cash Grants for College Students Impacted by Coronavirus Outbreak

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced more than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump March 27.

I live in rural America cut off from the internet. The pandemic has made me more isolated than ever.

When I moved to Drain (OR) population 1,169, I did so because it was my dream to buy a small farm and land is cheaper here than in larger towns. What I didn’t realize was that in rural America, internet options are often limited. Now that the libraries and businesses I used to rely on for internet have closed, the threads of connection I clung to before have been taken away. I cannot rent DVDs. I cannot go to the library to work. Even cruising grocery store aisles is a bad idea.

Reddit Co-Founder Calls for More Pressure on Broadband Companies

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who has previously waded into debates on net neutrality, slammed the Federal Communications Commission and broadband companies for not doing enough to address the digital divide. In a video with Rep.

Senate examines data, privacy in coronavirus ‘paper hearing’

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold one of the first known congressional “paper hearings” to discuss the use of personal data during the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced Capitol Hill to move much of its business online. The session, as the name indicates, will be carried out entirely through written statements, questions and responses set to be posted online, with witnesses having four days to respond to queries from lawmakers after the end of business April 9. 

When School Is Online, the Digital Divide Grows Greater

This digital divide has always left children and adults alike with fewer educational and economic opportunities. But with schools, libraries, and workplaces closed during the coronavirus pandemic, those without broadband are struggling to access schoolwork, job listings, unemployment benefit applications, and video chat services that others use to keep in touch with friends and family. For those on the wrong side of the digital divide, working from home isn’t an option.