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.

Call For New Federal Partnership On Broadband Access In California

Access to high-performance broadband is a civil rights issue according to Broadband for America Now, a report from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

Lack of broadband during pandemic is having a major impact in some areas of Pennsylvania

Many people take access to high-speed internet for granted, but the Federal Communications Commission says more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians do not have access to broadband. Broadband coverage has always been spotty in rural areas, but with students forced to stay home, the problem has become critical. Even when there is reliable service, the cost of broadband can be a barrier.

Size of internet providers factors into Kansas’ rural broadband divide

About 95,000 Kansas households have no access to the internet or lack what has been defined as the bare minimum of internet access, said State Rep. Mark Schreiber (R-Emporia ), a member of the Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force. Fast internet is so crucial to daily life that Kansans are finding creative workarounds, from turning their phones into hotspots to finding someplace nearby where they can access Wi-Fi.  Some schools in rural areas allow students to access their Wi-Fi from the parking lot on evenings and weekends.

About 1,530,000 Added Broadband in 3Q 2020. Highest Quarter since 1Q 2009

Leichtman Research Group found that the largest cable and wireline phone providers in the US – representing about 96% of the market – acquired about 1,530,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in 3Q 2020, compared to a pro forma gain of about 615,000 subscribers in 3Q 2019. These top broadband providers now account for about 104.9 million subscribers, with top cable companies having about 72 million broadband subscribers, and top wireline phone companies having about 32.9 million subscribers. Findings for the quarter include:

The Online Learning Equity Gap

This report profiles the many innovative options that school districts have pioneered to build or extend wireless broadband connectivity out to student households that cannot afford to purchase high-speed internet access at home.

Pitt, CMU partner with nonprofits, school districts to provide free internet access to city households

The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning will soon beam out more than just the victory lights. Through a new pilot program that combines the efforts of eight universities, research groups, nonprofit organizations and school districts, the Cathedral of Learning will act as a “super node” or hub that transmits Wi-Fi to households around the city.

FCC Extends COVID Related Lifeline Program Waivers through Feb. 2021

In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau has waived certain Lifeline program rules in five previous orders to provide necessary relief for low-income households.

Mixed Decision on Waiver of Lifeline Minimum Service Standards

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau addresses the petition of the National Lifeline Association (NaLA), seeking a waiver of the FCC’s rules updating the Lifeline program’s minimum service standard for mobile broadband usage, which otherwise would take effect on December 1, 2020. NaLA also seeks to halt the phase-down of the support amount for Lifeline service that does not meet the broadband minimum standard, which will decrease from $7.25/month to $5.25/month on December 1, 2020.

States Tap Federal CARES Act to Expand Broadband

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020, provided more than $2 trillion in economic stimulus to address the pandemic.

In Rural ‘Dead Zones,’ School Comes on a Flash Drive

The technology gap has prompted teachers to upload lessons on flash drives and send them home to dozens of students every other week. Some children spend school nights crashing at more-connected relatives’ homes so they can get online for classes the next day. Millions of American students are grappling with these challenges, learning remotely without adequate home internet service. Even as school districts have scrambled to provide students with laptops, many who live in low-income and rural communities continue to have difficulty logging on.