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.

No Internet access means no school. Here’s how the FCC can help.

More than 700 telecommunications companies have signed on to the Federal Communications Commission's Keep Americans Connected Pledge. These collective efforts stand as a proud point of American solidarity, a silver lining in our hyper-polarized political climate. Unfortunately, these efforts do not go far enough to ensure that our most vulnerable students have online access. The fine print in many Internet service providers’ offers excludes those who enrolled within certain time frames or had debt histories with the company or other issues.

The race to save the first draft of coronavirus history from internet oblivion

As lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing threaten to stretch out into the weeks, months, and even years ahead, there is a scramble to collect, in real time, the overwhelming abundance of information being produced online. Without it, the record of how we lived, how we changed, and how we addressed the global pandemic would be left incomplete and at the mercy of a constantly shifting internet, where even recent history has a tendency to get buried or vanish.

Why the FCC Doesn't Want to Vet Trump's COVID Broadcasts

Federal Communications Commission General Counsel Tom Johnson joined The Federalist to discuss why the commission quickly shot down a recent emergency petition from advocacy group Free Press asking the agency to investigate what it calls bogus coronavirus information from talk radio and White House task force briefings.

Pandemic Builds Momentum for Broadband Infrastructure Upgrade

The coronavirus pandemic is boosting momentum for major broadband legislation, highlighting the widespread lack of high-speed internet in US homes at a time when it has become more essential than ever. Leading lawmakers of both parties say the long-delayed issue of closing the so-called digital divide is gaining new prominence, as Washington weighs initiatives to help speed economic recovery and improve US competitiveness. “Having affordable broadband—it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA).

America’s Broadband Moment

The debate on whether broadband is a luxury or an essential connection to society is over. More than twice as many people are now using residential broadband during business hours as before the COVID-19 crisis. Over 55 million students have been impacted by school closures. The use of telehealth has skyrocketed. This, I believe, is our broadband moment: a hinge of history that will determine whether today’s residential broadband is fit for the changed world in which we inhabit or whether its limits work to disadvantage those that are not equipped to use it.

COVID-19 and the Distance Learning Gap

As schools across the country transition to distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis, a new Connected Communities and Inclusive Growth (CCIG) report documents the extent of the distance learning gap in Los Angeles County. The distance learning gap refers to the gap between students living in households with high-speed Internet and a desktop or laptop computer, and those without these essential resources for effective distance learning. Among the key findings are:

INCOMPAS to FCC: Court’s Remand of Net Neutrality Provisions Critical to Competition, Public Safety and Streaming Revolution

INCOMPAS — the internet and competitive networks association — led the court challenge opposing the Federal Communications Commission decision to end network neutrality provisions that help first responders, main street businesses and the streaming revolution. The INCOMPAS comments argue net neutrality impacts:

The Internet’s Titans Make a Power Grab

The ordinary laws no longer govern. Every day, new rules are being written to deal with the crisis. We are living under an emergency constitution invoked by Facebook, Google, and other major tech platforms. In normal times, these companies are loath to pass judgment about what’s true and what’s false. But lately they have been taking unusually bold steps to keep misinformation about COVID-19 from circulating. As a matter of public health, these moves are entirely prudent.

Working from home a challenge for those without fast Internet access

While many Capital Region (NY) residents, from parents to students, can cope with Gov Andrew Cuomo's (D-NY) work and study from home orders amid the COVID-19 crisis, for those with slow or non-existent home internet service, the experience can be downright frustrating. Gina Mintzer, executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau, says in Adirondack towns where land line internet service is either non-existent or unreliable, parents and students working from home must often rely on their cellular service for internet connections to wor