Coronavirus and Connectivity
As COVID-19 requires more schools to transition to online learning, the students who were already the most vulnerable to falling behind will face even more hurdles to keep pace. The efforts of the Federal Communications Commission and Internet service providers during this crisis ought to be commended, but their quick response also begs the question: Was broadband access not essential before COVID-19? Long before the coronavirus drew national attention to the issue, digital inclusion advocates were stressing the disparate outcomes for students without internet.
The Federal Communications Commission’s unprecedented proposal to giveaway 1200 MHz of unlicensed spectrum for millions of disparate devices to be laid over critical uses in the 6 GHz band should be reconsidered. It could be disastrous to introduce millions of divergent devices and users on top of critical infrastructure networks with different traffic patterns next to these organized channels. Moreover, it creates a dangerous precedent against the proven market-based auction for licensed spectrum in favor of advocacy get spectrum for free.
The coronavirus outbreak and the rise in remote work has advanced the need for more robust 5G technologies in the US. Verizon stated March 18 that the demands on bandwidth increased 75% over the previous week. The Federal Communications Commission and federal government are trying to accelerate deployment in urban and rural areas. But, the global pandemic has forced a supply chain slowdown that may delay further expansion of 5G.
Netflix says it will lower the quality of its video streams in Europe in an effort to preserve bandwidth for more essential online activities. But early data shows that most US broadband providers, and many elsewhere, are standing up to the surge in internet traffic generated by the many people stuck at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic. At least for now.
Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19, Includes Communications Workers
The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released guidance to help state and local jurisdictions and the private sector identify and manage their essential workforce while responding to COVID-19.
Highlighting some efforts to keep us all connected in what is a very scary time. We look at the Keep America Connected Pledge, other voluntary efforts by broadband providers, and actions by the Federal Communications Commission to waive program rules and increase the capacity of wireless carriers. But even with all this activity, we're seeing too many stories about too many people who are not connected during this pandemic.
For all the talk of online learning during shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. public school students will find that the work they do while at home is actually optional. It won’t be graded and it won’t count. Some public schools are calling online work “enrichment,” not part of the curriculum, because they can’t guarantee that all students will have access to it. Students without the internet or home computers can’t do it, and special-needs students may require accommodations to complete it. As a result, millions of schoolchildren risk missing weeks of school.
Senator Markey Queries White House on Plans to Use Americans’ Location Data for Coronavirus Response
Sen Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) regarding recent reports that it is considering future partnerships with companies including Google, Facebook, IBM and others, some of which would involve analyzing information about the location of those companies’ users, to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Praises FCC’s ‘Unprecedented Effort’ to Ensuring Connectivity During Coronavirus
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr praised the FCC’s emergency efforts to bolster connectivity in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Carr said that “every reform is on the table” – particularly with regard to the agency’s Lifeline program – to ensure that American have adequate connectivity at this time.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that 205 additional broadband and phone service providers have taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, bringing the total number of companies to 390.