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.

Berkeley: Leaving No Child Digitally Behind

Regarding Steven Davidoff Solomon’s “Berkeley Schools Leave Every Child Behind” (op-ed, April 3), Solomon should know that under federal law public schools (unlike his first daughter’s private school) cannot just plow ahead with a structure that excludes free access to any student, whatever the special need and without threat of serious legal challenges with financial consequences to the district and the district taxpayers.

The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback

Phone calls have made a comeback in the pandemic.

Rural North Dakotans Get Free, High-Speed Internet Access Thanks to Electric Cooperative Responding to Covid-19 Emergency

North Dakota telephone cooperative BEK Communications is offering new subscribers four months of free Internet access on its Lightband Fiber-to-the-Home network. The co-op is also increasing speeds and implementing other efforts through its “BEK Cares” initiative, which aims to make better broadband accessible to rural North Dakotans in response to the growing Covid-19 emergency. Valley City Commission President Dave Carlsrud said, "We have been utilizing BEK’s business services for years, however with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly found out how important they truly were.

T-Mobile doubled capacity, speeds in days with spectrum loaned from Dish, others

T-Mobile deployed additional 600 MHz spectrum in two days after getting it on loan from Dish Network and others amid the COVID-19 crisis, according to analysis by Opensignal. This doubled capacity and 4G LTE speeds in major markets, showing a successful example of collaboration within and between the wireless industry and government during the pandemic. In 32 markets, T-Mobile boosted the amount of 600 MHz spectrum for 4G twice - increasing first from 10 MHz to 20 MHz, and then again to 30 MHz.

Internet Speed Analysis: Rural, Top 200 Cities March 29th – April 4th

For the past three weeks, our team has been tracking internet performance in hundreds of American cities amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, we expanded our analysis to include rural America, as well as adding in data on upload speeds, which have been central to the discussion around working (and learning) from home. Key findings:

Broadband is More Important Than Ever

Broadband is more important than ever, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been working to expand access and increase connectivity for all Americans. We recently provided a one-year update to the American Broadband Initiative (ABI), the Trump Administration’s government-wide approach to connectivity challenges. Five new states – Nebraska, New Mexico, Michigan, Missouri, and Virginia – have joined the initial eight states participating in our National Broadband Availability Map.

Getting Residents Online in a Pandemic Crisis

What are steps local leaders can take right now to help low-income and vulnerable families access broadband connections and devices to get online during the crisis? 

  • Help Your Residents Access Free and Low-Cost Broadband Plans
  • Help Residents Access Free Devices
  • Leverage Public Wi-Fi Options
  • Partner with the Private Sector
  • Connect with Your State Leadership

[Angelina Panettieri is the Legislative Manager for Information Technology and Communications at the National League of Cities]

Indian Health Service Expands Telehealth Services During COVID-19 Response

The Indian Health Service is announcing its expansion of telehealth across IHS federal facilities. On March 27, IHS issued additional guidance that allowed clinicians to use certain additional, non-public facing audio or video communications technologies to augment all clinical activities related to providing care to patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This applied to telehealth provided for any clinical reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.

How’s the Internet Doing? Depends Where You Look

As residents shelter in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the surge in demand that internet providers would expect to see gradually over the course of an entire year has instead hit in a matter of weeks. How are these crucial networks faring, and will they be able to keep handling this kind of a load? The answer is complicated and even more so the longer the pandemic persists. But so far — as anyone fortunate enough to be able to work remotely and stream Netflix can attest — things seem to be going OK.

Trust and entrepreneurship pave the way toward digital inclusion in Brownsville, Texas

As part of a larger project around digital equity, we visited Texas’s Brownsville-Harlingen metropolitan area, a community with low rates of broadband adoption and spotty service. We can look to this community to better understand the opportunities for overcoming barriers to broadband adoption. Leaders in the region—including the city manager, the head of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, and representatives from local health and housing centers—all know that to improve economic conditions, they need to increase broadband penetration, adoption, and use.