Coronavirus and Connectivity
The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on the disparities that exist in accessing affordable, reliable high-speed internet in the US. The panel heard from the National Urban League's Joi Chaney, Public Knowledge President Chris Lewis, Francella Ochillo of Next Century Cities, and George Ford, the chief economist at the Phoenix Center.
In light of many moving pieces and the potential broadband funding streams, we recommend communities take the following steps to develop a funding strategy and position themselves competitively for federal dollars:
Without a massive investment to build out the country’s open fiber infrastructure and a new set of rules to govern its use, the United States risks being left behind. Recommendations:
The digital divide and the homework gap haven't gone away, even with new attention and funding directed toward emergency relief.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began towards the tail end of the first quarter of 2020. The impact was immediate and has forever changed bandwidth usage patterns. As 2020 came to an end, subscribers, on average, were consuming close to one half of a terabyte (TB) of data, up 40% from 2019. The pandemic impact is even more pronounced with the growth in upstream bandwidth. OpenVault predicts that by December 2021, the average broadband consumption per household will be around 600-650 gigabytes -- that's more than six times the average broadband consumption level since 2015.
Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge highlighted the company’s potential to upsell broadband customers as data usage grows but noted it didn’t yet feel the need to pursue a rollout of symmetrical capabilities. The broadband provider saw "significant growth in data usage per internet customer” in Q1 2021, stating this had reached an average of about 700 GB per month.
The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association, and AT&T have announced a collaboration to improve digital literacy and promote broadband adoption among families and communities, particularly those who are newly connected to the internet and navigating home schooling, employment and other activities made challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of Connecticut’s students did not log onto remote classes, even after the state allotted tens of millions of federal aid dollars for its ambitious remote learning program. Many families didn’t take advantage of subsidized internet.