Coronavirus and Connectivity
Chairman Pai's Response to Senators Regarding Extending the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window by 180 Days
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai sent letters to 38 senators on June 23, 2020, in response to their letter that asked the FCC to extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window by 180 days in light of the pandemic. Chairman Pai noted the FCC granted four emergency short-term grants of special temporary authority in the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands to support the Navajo Nation, Zuni Pueblo, and Makah Tribe communications and pandemic response efforts. And Chairman Pai said the FCC has yet to make a decision on whether to extend the August 3, 2020 application window deadline.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved an additional 70 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Health care providers in both urban and rural areas of the country will use this $31.63 million in funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 514 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C.
The mass migration to remote work helped companies solve a major coronavirus challenge, but the recent civil unrest has exposed diversity and opportunity gaps across the U.S., which telecommuting is beginning to exacerbate. Low-income students and students of color entering the workforce are struggling to overcome a telecommuting digital divide. The data is starting to back up the personal experience.
According the latest Census data on computer and Internet use, 85.7% of Americans have fixed-line broadband service in the home. But during the COVID pandemic, it is the 14.3% of broadband “have nots” getting all the attention.
On March 19, Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai making the FCC to take immediate action to ensure that all K-12 students in the U.S. have access to the internet so that they can continue learning while schools are closed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On June 22, Chairman Pai wrote back saying, "The FCC aims to enable [the] transition to remote learning.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) took to the House floor to talk up the massive Moving Forward Act infrastructure bill, including its $100 billion in funding for broadband buildouts he says will close the digital divide. The $1.5 trillion-plus bill would allocate billions to subsidize broadband competition--including from municipal providers--in "underserved" areas which could mean where service is already provided by private capitol at just short of gig speeds. "T
Major internet service providers will resume data caps on broadband and data usage, as commitments to remove them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire. This is occurring as the coronavirus continues to spread, and many workers and students are still working remotely in an effort to curb the virus’s spread through social distancing. Many Americans are still using high-bandwidth video chat software such as Zoom, Facetime, and Google Hangouts to keep in touch with loved ones and to do their jobs.
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and 26 Senate Democrats introduced the Emergency Broadband Connections Act to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband connections in the middle of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The legislation would provide a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services.
Comcast says its broadband network has earned high marks for its performance so far during the Covid-19 pandemic, and now Wall Street analysts are projecting more broadband subscriber growth for the company. Comcast claims its network is delivering above-advertised speeds nationwide, based on the results of more than 700,000 daily diagnostic network speed tests. Upstream traffic is up 32% as more Americans work from home, and downstream traffic is up 11%.
With expanded unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of July, many parents will have no choice but to return to work by September. Even for parents who can work from home, home schooling is often a crushing burden that’s destroying careers, mental health and family relationships.