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.

Show Us the Money: Federal Broadband Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A number of readers have reached out to us at Benton asking for help figuring out where to find all the pools of broadband support appropriated by Congress over the past year. So we've decided to create this placeholder for all the funding we've seen in the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the American Rescue Plan.

What Will the FCC Do Next with Lifeline?

What constitutes a lifeline in 2021? Is it a phone? A smartphone? A fixed-location broadband connection? Or some combination of all these services?

American Rescue Plan: Broadband and the Social Safety Net

On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, the latest effort to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: From Here to Launch in 60 Days

On March 4, we got a tad bit more information about the timeline of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—at least for the companies that are interested in providing the discounted broadband services. Broadband internet access service providers that have previously participated in federal assistance programs (these companies are known in wonkspeak as eligible telecommunications carriers or ETCs), can begin to let USAC know if they will participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Progr

Introducing the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

In its efforts to help people deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in late 2020. The Federal Communications Commission will run the program, starting it in Spring 2021. The program offers discounts off of people's monthly internet access bills to help connect households that find it hard to afford broadband service. Households can also get discounts on a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. Broadband providers will receive up to $50/month for providing service to low-income households ($75/month if the household is on Tribal Land).

The Last Broadband Gifts From the 116th Congress

With great drama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2021. The $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending bill extended unemployment benefits and ensured the government can keep running. The $900 billion COVID relief provision includes over $7 billion to help improve connectivity in the U.S.

ISPs Say They Kept Virus Pledge, But Customers Disagree

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission pushed internet service providers to promise they wouldn't penalize customers who struggled to pay their internet bills when they needed connectivity the most. More than 800 companies signed onto the Keep Americans Connected pledge, a commitment to not disconnect customers who were behind on their bills or charge late-payment fees that drew effusive praise from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Broadband for America Now

In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).

New Research Finds Extending School, Library Networks Key to Connecting Households

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition and New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) released

Hamilton County Schools' free internet program increases parental involvement, research shows

Since the EdConnect program launched in 2020, more than 16,000 low-income students in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and 28,000 of their family members have received free internet in their homes. The effort works to close the digital divide and involves parents more in the education of their children.