Coronavirus and Connectivity
China has forced local staff to quit their jobs at a number of US media organisations operating in the country, dealing another blow to news groups caught in a diplomatic stand-off between Beijing and Washington. Apparently at least five Chinese citizens working for the New York Times and Voice of America have been fired this week by the Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions.
Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak, Klobuchar, Durbin, and Colleagues Urge Administration to Waive Phone Fees for Incarcerated People And Ensure Access to Confidential Communications with Attorneys
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumental (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote a letter urging the Administration to waive phone charges for incarcerated people to help families and loved ones remain in contact during the pandemic.
The rift between the experience of Americans able to work from home and those in the service sector, now out of work, underscores how dramatically the crisis is separating the haves in the U.S. economy from those who don’t have much. When a crisis strikes, it’s the latter who bear the brunt of the damage. That’s going to play out this time with particular ferocity in the United States for several reasons. One is that since the last recession we’ve become increasingly dependent on low-income jobs with poor benefits and fragile guarantees of continued employment.
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has granted requests from AT&T and Verizon for Special Temporary Authority to use additional spectrum to help meet Americans’ wireless broadband needs across the country during this national emergency. AT&T was granted authority for 60 days to operate in AWS-4 Band spectrum licensed to DISH. Both AT&T and Verizon were granted similar authority to use AWS-3 spectrum currently held in the FCC’s inventory.
In support of their public health efforts, states are implementing increasingly strict orders to stop non-essential business and keep residents at home. Both California and New York have, consistent with the guidance of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, identified telecommunications as essential infrastructure that must be supported even as other activities are restricted. I encourage all state and local officials to adopt this approach. Around the country, dedicated teams are working under challenging circumstances to expand access to communications networks.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to a sharp rise in broadband consumption during business hours, which jumped by 41% in one week. Overall broadband usage in March is on track to outpace the previous monthly record, researchers said. The pandemic has driven a massive uptick in people working from home, relying on broadband networks serving individual homes rather than enterprise networks. OpenVault’s data finds:
Elementary and secondary school districts across Illinois are moving toward online or e-learning while students remain at home in an effort to contain the coronavirus. One district in southern Illinois has taken a unique approach to ensure every student has access to the internet. Belleville Township High School District 201, located outside St. Louis, is deploying four school buses equipped with WiFi to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the community.
Here is a very simple idea to persuade Americans to stay home, keep our virtual society running, and stimulate the economy. As part of the coronavirus stimulus package, the US government will cover everyone’s broadband bill for a basic connection capable of supporting two-way video (ideally 25/25 Mbps, but we may have to settle for the Federal Communications Commission official definition of broadband of 25/3 Mbps).
In this disorienting and terrifying moment in American history, there's one sliver of good news: The internet seems to be working. Communications networks are surviving an explosion of videoconferencing, distance learning and shelter-in-place streaming. That makes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai very happy. He said his agency has been working with the White House, other federal agencies and private industry to plot out a strategy for keeping Americans connected during this crisis.
Governments must promote and protect access to and free flow of information during pandemic – International experts
In light of the growing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the monitors for freedom of expression and freedom of the media for the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued the following joint statement: