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.

Coronavirus will hurt us all. But it will be worst for those who have the least

The rift between the experience of Americans able to work from home and those in the service sector, now out of work, underscores how dramatically the crisis is separating the haves in the U.S. economy from those who don’t have much. When a crisis strikes, it’s the latter who bear the brunt of the damage. That’s going to play out this time with particular ferocity in the United States for several reasons. One is that since the last recession we’ve become increasingly dependent on low-income jobs with poor benefits and fragile guarantees of continued employment.

FCC Grants AT&T and Verizon Temporary Spectrum Access During Pandemic

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has granted requests from AT&T and Verizon for Special Temporary Authority to use additional spectrum to help meet Americans’ wireless broadband needs across the country during this national emergency. AT&T was granted authority for 60 days to operate in AWS-4 Band spectrum licensed to DISH. Both AT&T and Verizon were granted similar authority to use AWS-3 spectrum currently held in the FCC’s inventory. 

Commissioner Starks On State And Local Stay At Home Orders

In support of their public health efforts, states are implementing increasingly strict orders to stop non-essential business and keep residents at home. Both California and New York have, consistent with the guidance of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, identified telecommunications as essential infrastructure that must be supported even as other activities are restricted. I encourage all state and local officials to adopt this approach. Around the country, dedicated teams are working under challenging circumstances to expand access to communications networks.

Business Hours Broadband Consumption Soars During Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a sharp rise in broadband consumption during business hours, which jumped by 41% in one week. Overall broadband usage in March is on track to outpace the previous monthly record, researchers said. The pandemic has driven a massive uptick in people working from home, relying on broadband networks serving individual homes rather than enterprise networks. OpenVault’s data finds:

While Schools Are Closed, Illinois District Uses Buses As Wi-Fi Hotspots

Elementary and secondary school districts across Illinois are moving toward online or e-learning while students remain at home in an effort to contain the coronavirus. One district in southern Illinois has taken a unique approach to ensure every student has access to the internet. Belleville Township High School District 201, located outside St. Louis, is deploying four school buses equipped with WiFi to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the community.

Want to Keep America Home? Give Everyone Free Basic Broadband.

Here is a very simple idea to persuade Americans to stay home, keep our virtual society running, and stimulate the economy. As part of the coronavirus stimulus package, the US government will cover everyone’s broadband bill for a basic connection capable of supporting two-way video (ideally 25/25 Mbps, but we may have to settle for the Federal Communications Commission official definition of broadband of 25/3 Mbps). 

At least the internet hasn't crashed: Ajit Pai on the FCC and COVID-19

In this disorienting and terrifying moment in American history, there's one sliver of good news: The internet seems to be working. Communications networks are surviving an explosion of videoconferencing, distance learning and shelter-in-place streaming. That makes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai very happy. He said his agency has been working with the White House, other federal agencies and private industry to plot out a strategy for keeping Americans connected during this crisis.

Governments must promote and protect access to and free flow of information during pandemic – International experts

In light of the growing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the monitors for freedom of expression and freedom of the media for the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued the following joint statement:

As classes move online during COVID-19, what are disconnected students to do?

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.

FCC Should Rethink The 6 GHz Proceeding Given The COVID-19 Crisis

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.