Coronavirus and Connectivity
Americans are going to need broadband in their homes—to help them telework to keep the economy strong; to help them understand medical information, and potentially connect with medical care via telemedicine; and to help our youngest learners continue to grow. The Federal Communications Commission must join that effort immediately with emergency steps that bring broadband into homes in communities impacted by COVID-19.
To enable social distancing, institutions including schools, governments, workplaces, and libraries are moving many of their daily functions online. The successes — and failures — of these efforts can tell us a lot about how tech policy is (or isn’t) working in America, and where it needs to go. The biggest hurdle is access to broadband at home.
If we have to suspend or otherwise modify political campaigning because of coronavirus, social media will become even more important and the fissures it creates even more painful. We should expect the platform companies such as Facebook and Google to step up to this national emergency—but can we?
For years, US broadband providers have taken advantage of a lack of US competition by imposing arbitrary and expensive broadband usage caps and "overage fees." With the country facing a massive surge in videoconferencing and home learning thanks to the coronavirus epidemic, experts say it’s time for broadband providers to suspend these costly, unnecessary restrictions. Thanks to limited competition, affordable broadband is just out of reach for many US residents.
FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel Calls On FCC To Take Aggressive Action To Assist With Coronavirus Response
The coronavirus is already exposing hard truths about the digital divide, but the Federal Communications Commission has the power to help. Nationwide this crisis means that we are going to explore the expansion of telework, telehealth, and tele-education. The FCC should immediately convene the country’s broadband providers to discuss what they are doing right now to provide service for Americans.
As the coronavirus pushes more human activities online, it's forcing a reckoning with the often-invisible digital divide. Both the government and private sector are moving to online systems and operations, but not everyone in the US can easily follow. "Coronavirus, without some immediate changes being made, is certainly going to exacerbate the haves and have nots for who's digitally connected," said Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
Hospital chief information officers, no strangers to emergencies, are putting in place new systems and workflows to get ahead of a growing coronavirus epidemic that threatens to tax limited resources and staff.
The mounting school closures amid the coronavirus outbreak in the US are exposing major equity gaps in access to technology and the internet, and the Federal Communications Commission needs to step in, according to FCC commissioners. "Now is absolutely the time to talk about the coronavirus disruption and how technology can help," FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told a Senate hearing.
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and other large hospitals across the country are quickly expanding the use of telemedicine to safely screen and treat patients for coronavirus, and to try to contain the spread of infection while offering remote services. While the notion of seeing a doctor via your computer or cellphone is hardly new, telemedicine has yet to take off widely in the United States.
The ability of schools across the country to hold classes remotely is being tested as more close in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Also being tested: the ability of families to get their homes tech-ready so children can log in to virtual classrooms. More than 23,500 students across 33 campuses of the Northshore School District in suburban Seattle (WA) began joining Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings with their teachers on March 9 and completing assignments via Google Classroom.