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.

Rep Matsui Calls on FCC to Expand Internet Access for Low-Income Communities During COVID-19 Outbreak

Rep Doris Matsui (D-CA) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, urging him to expand the Lifeline program for millions of Americans lacking broadband access amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. In light of recent school closures and the need for remote learning capabilities, Rep Matsui is once again advocating for expanded access to Lifeline services. She wrote, "Specifically, I encourage you to explore measures to grant provisional approvals for Lifeline subscribers as they become eligible directly or via qualifying support programs.

FCC, Congress Working on Freeing Up Device Dollars

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has been working with Congress on ways to use government subsidy money for in-home devices by teachers, students and patients. The FCC is trying to subsidize distance learning and telemedicine tech during the coronavirus crisis, but is not authorized to do so. 

The National Broadband Plan at 10: What’s Next?

Eleven years ago Congress asked for a National Broadband Plan. Ten years ago, we delivered it. If Congress were to ask for such a plan for the next decade, what would it contain?  What did we learn from doing the 2010 Plan that would be useful for a team doing one in 2021 to know? I will address those questions by discussing four key differences between then and now, delineating three key learnings, and closing with some eternal truths that animated our effort and should animate the next as well as making one quick suggestion relating to broadband in time of the coronavirus.

FCC Grants Verizon Temporary Spectrum Access During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted Verizon’s request for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to use additional spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic. This STA will allow the company to operate for 60 days in spectrum licensed to Northstar Wireless LLC and SNR Wireless LicenseCo in the AWS-3 Band in order to provide additional capacity to Verizon customers across the country. The FCC has granted similar requests by T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular in recent days.

Small Cable Operators Beef Up Broadband to Battle Coronavirus

Small cable operators are answering the call to provide wider access to broadband services as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt lives across the country, offering free service to low-income qualifying homes and beefing up speeds to account for increased traffic as residents increasingly work from home. While larger companies like Comcast, Charter, Altice USA and others have grabbed headlines with their broadband offerings during the crisis, small cable is stepping up to the plate too, including Mediacom Communications, Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) and TDS Telecom.

How broadband inequality complicates COVID-19 school closures in rural areas

To help illustrate some of the stark realities of what rural Americans are experiencing in the wake of this monumental health crisis, Center on Rural Innovation’s Mapping and Data Analytics team has created an interactive broadband map to better visualize and understand broadband availability across America’s school districts. The maps consider broadband to be internet service that:

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel on Universal Service Gift Rules Waiver: There's More the FCC Can Do

Today’s waiver of the E-Rate and Rural Health Care gift rules is a smart step to assist in coronavirus response. As a result, schools and hospitals will be able to receive enhanced services and equipment from their service provider without running afoul of the Federal Communications Commission’s gift rules. But let’s not confuse generosity for justice, because we need a national plan to ensure that everyone is connected during these unprecedented days.

Sen Menendez, Colleagues Warn Trump Administration, Google of Privacy Concerns in COVID-19 Screening Website

Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a group of colleagues in sending separate letters to the Trump Administration and the tech company Google raising concerns over privacy and cybersecurity vulnerabilities involving a third-party coronavirus (COVID-19) testing website announced recently by President Donald Trump and coronavirus response coordinator Dr.

Philadelphia schools forbid graded ‘remote instruction’ during shutdown for equity concerns

The School District of Philadelphia will not allow teachers to do “remote instruction” with students while schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Because the district cannot ensure equal access to technology among students, it’s barring individual schools from providing graded virtual instruction. Superintendent William Hite said teachers cannot require students to do work remotely or grade them on that work.

COVID-19 shines light on 'digital divide' across the US

With the COVID-19 outbreak in full swing in the US, schools and businesses across the country are closing down, employees are being asked to rely on their broadband connections to work remotely and school-aged children are attending "school" remotely via the internet. But for large numbers of Americans, broadband connectivity simply isn't available