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 Aderholt requests emergency funding for rural broadband

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.

Wi-Fi May Slow, But Low-Income Access Is Key COVID-19 Issue

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 lends spectrum to AT&T during COVID-19 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 to FCC: No Lifeline Disconnections During Coronavirus Pandemic

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:

Amidst School Closures, Klobuchar, Peters, Tester Urge FCC to Ensure Students Have Internet Access

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. 

To Fight Coronavirus, Millions More Americans Need Internet Access

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.

Our Broadband Moment–Acting Now and Looking Forward

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.

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.