Coronavirus and Connectivity
The coronavirus pandemic is prompting many businesses across the country to close their offices, forcing their employees to work from home. One problem: A majority of US workers don’t have jobs that easily enable them to work from home, the federal government says. According to a March 2019 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7% of US workers are in an occupation where they spend a portion of their work schedule at home or at another approved location other than their office.
With wireless use set to spike as more people work from home during the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, wireless spectrum holders are working together to most efficiently use the available spectrum. That has led carriers and spectrum holders to temporarily put competition aside and enter wireless spectrum lending arrangements. The goal is to expand voice, video and data capacity where it is needed as work, as education and as commerce shifts to the home from the office, school and store.
Rep Robert Aderholt (R-AL) sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting emergency funds be directed to expanding rural broadband access. He pointed to rural broadband deficiencies as negatively impacting the ability of people in rural areas to utilize telehealth services, which are being recommended to limit the potential spread of coronavirus. “These new realities have left millions of rural Americans who have little or no access to broadband feeling abandoned and desperately in need of help,” Rep Aderholt wrote.
As large amounts of daytime internet traffic shift from offices and schools to home networks, telecommunications experts predict that for most users, the existing web infrastructure is robust enough to handle the upswing in streaming, conference calling and distance learning. That may not be the case for low-income Americans who struggle to get online in the first place, however. While general Wi-Fi users may see bottlenecks at times, advocates assert that preserving internet access for low-income Americans will dominate as a larger issue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dish said it will be lending 20 MHz of its AWS-4 (Band 66) and all of its 700 MHz spectrum to AT&T, starting immediately. Dish will provide the spectrum to AT&T at no cost for 60 days. AT&T will be able to deploy the AWS-4 spectrum quickly and easily using its AWS-1 and AWS-3 equipment. In addition, AT&T can use Dish’s 700 MHz E-Block in conjunction with the D-Block that AT&T has started deploying in some markets.
Analysts are speculating that these loans during a time of crisis might later be turned into ongoing leases.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) called on the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that no eligible American is disconnected from the Lifeline assistance program during the coronavirus pandemic. Since 1985, the FCC’s Lifeline program has made basic internet and telephone service more affordable for low-income Americans.
Klobuchar, Casey Introduce Legislation to Increase Seniors' Virtual Connection to Health Care and Community Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new legislation to enhance telehealth support for seniors and increase access to technology for "virtual visits" during the coronavirus pandemic. The Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act would help protect one of the most vulnerable populations from risking exposure to the virus when accessing remote health care and connecting with loved ones. Specifically, the ACCESS Act would:
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT) urged Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to take action to ensure that students have access to internet so that they can continue learning while schools are closed and to create a consumer-friendly web portal with additional school resources in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
One instruction remains consistent and clear during the coronavirus pandemic: Stay home. For many of us, that means taking our daily activities — work, school, medical care and connecting with loved ones — online. But not for everyone.
We are in a moment of intertwined public-health and economic crises; a time when immediate measures are in motion to protect our people and protect our ability to survive economically. Nothing is more important. Congress will now consider a huge stimulus bill, which is right. That stimulus bill should include actions that build a lasting broadband future, which is necessary.