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.

Chairman Pai's Response to Reps. Trone, Hoyer, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Harris, Brown and Raskin Regarding RDOF

On April 9, Reps David Trone (D-MD), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Andy Harris (R-MD), Anthony Brown (D-MD, and James Raskin (D-MD) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai about the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), particularly calling to revise eligibility for the program so that states with existing investments to build out their capacity are not disqualified from receiving RDOF funding.

Chairman Pai Response Regarding Keeping Low-Income Americans Connected

On Aug 13, 2020, House Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) led Democratic Communications Subcommittee members in writing to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to urge the FCC to provide unlimited voice minutes and unlimited mobile data to Lifeline recipients, with an increase in the basic support amount to offset any associated incremental costs, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mainers seeking internet upgrade tell stories of poor service to highlight feds’ mistakes

Mainers are sharing their stories of poor internet access as part of an effort to get the Federal Communications Commission to update its map to more accurately reflect the inadequacy of internet service in many areas of the country, particularly rural areas.

The broadband industry steps up to connect students when the FCC will not

America’s broadband providers have stepped up with the ‘K-12 Bridge to Broadband” to help meet the needs of millions of low-income American students who are unable to get on the internet so they can go to class from home. The new program will do two things the Trump Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has failed to do. First, it will identify households with students that have broadband passing their door but have chosen not to subscribe.

Senate Democrats Call on FCC Chairman to Expeditiously Address the Digital Divide in Indian Country

Sen Tom Udall (D-NM), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, led a group of 14 Senate Democrats in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to expedite broadband connectivity to Native communities to improve access to critical services during the pandemic including telemedicine, online education, and teleworking opportunities. Sen Udall was joined by Sens Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie K.

FCC Commissioner Starks Announces 2020 Digital Equity Recognition Program Honorees

Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks announces the honorees of the inaugural Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition (DOER) Program, which was created to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Americans working to close the digital divide in communities without access to affordable, reliable broadband. The program honorees will be recognized at a virtual reception in October.

Lawmakers call on Gov. Greg Abbott to plan to expand broadband access as pandemic worsens disparities

As the COVID-19 pandemic has "exacerbated existing disparities" related to high-speed internet access in Texas, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers asked Gov. Greg Abbott to develop a plan to expand broadband access in the state. “Texas is well overdue for a state broadband plan, and we believe the state needs to begin the process of creating one immediately,” the 88 lawmakers wrote in a letter to Abbott’s office. They said the need can't wait until the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature.

Congress needs to provide flexible funding to states to deploy broadband networks

Over the past few weeks, millions of kids couldn’t begin learning at all because they do not have access to affordable, high-speed internet. In Colorado, 65,000 students don’t have access to the internet at home.

Remote Schooling Out of Reach for Many Students in West Virginia Without Internet

Much of southern West Virginia had already been struggling with a drug epidemic and persistent poverty before the coronavirus pandemic took hold here. Now, as students return to school online, the region is coming up against another longstanding challenge: a lack of broadband internet access. Providing service in sparsely populated areas is typically more costly and less profitable than in suburbs and cities. In Appalachia, the terrain has made it difficult to install and maintain the infrastructure necessary for broadband.

Lack of Broadband Access Linked to Childhood Poverty

Lack of good broadband access is a strong predictor of childhood poverty. That’s the finding of Broadband Communities’ recent analysis combining county-level broadband data it has collected since 2010 with comprehensive, county-level poverty data compiled by the nonprofit organization Save the Children. We looked at overall poverty rankings, and, with sensitivities heightened because of the current need for distance learning, we also analyzed high school graduation patterns.