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.

Closing the K–12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning

A full 15 to 16 million public school students across the US live in households without adequate internet access or computing devices to facilitate distance learning. Almost 10% of public school teachers (300,000 to 400,000) are also caught in the gap, affecting their ability to run remote classes. The 32-page report, Closing the K–12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning, fixes a one-year price tag of at least $6 billion and as much as $11 billion to connect all kids at home, and an additional $1 billion to close the divide for teachers.

Senators Wyden, Blumenthal, Hirono and Schumer Introduce Bill To Ensure Americans Keep Broadband Access During the Pandemic

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband access in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Connections Act – sponsored by 26 Senate Democrats – 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.

Millions of Americans Depend on Libraries for Internet. Now They’re Closed.

Since COVID-19 forced the Cherokee (IA) Public Library to close in mid-March, the computer lab is empty. But the library is still many residents’ most reliable source of connectivity to the digital world. Kids sit scattered in the library’s parking lot with phones or video game devices, catching some of the Wi-Fi outside that’s now left on 24/7. And Tyler Hahn, the library's director, spends his days trying to help some older patrons get online by shouting instructions to them through the library’s windows.

Remarks Of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai To The U.S.-India Business Council Webinar On Creating Alignment In The 5G Ecosystem

I commend the US-India Business Council (USIBC) for launching this Webinar series on 5G. I’ve been asked to begin with an update on the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to promote the development and deployment of 5G. This is something we’ve spent quite some time on, to say the least. We call our strategy the 5G FAST plan, and it has three key components: freeing up spectrum, promoting wireless infrastructure, and modernizing regulations to encourage fiber deployment.

Social Justice, Broadband Top Priorities for Smart Cities

Issues around equity, access to broadband and the broader social ills related to racism are finding a stronger foothold in smart city strategies. The compounding events of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, its related economic fallout and nationwide protests calling attention to unjust policing and systematic racism are redefining how cities use technology as an instrument for achieving community goals. The coronavirus crisis, which either idled large segments of the economy or required workers to go remote, has laid bare lingering problems like the digital divide, as smart city leaders rethin

Pandemic internet aid is ending, but digital divide remains

Thousands of people in communities across the country are about to grapple with losing broadband service. Free services started to help low-income families during the pandemic and a pledge not to cut off service or charge late fees to customers struggling financially are ending June 30. If left unaddressed, this end threatens to unravel a precarious thread of the social safety net at a particularly difficult time for many American families.

Chairman Pai's Response to Senator Wicker Regarding Broadband Deployment in Unserved Rural Communities Through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

On June 2, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai about the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

Chairman Pai's Response to Senators Regarding Maintaining Connectivity During COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 24, Sens Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, saying, "We must coordinate the voluntary efforts of broadband service providers with the targeted investments of federal, state, and local governments to ensure that efforts are focused on those who need our help the most." They urged Chairman Pai to work with the companies that stepped up to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to provide a comprehensive report on the distribution of hotspots by April 27th so we can understand where hotspots have been deployed

Chairman Pai's Response to Members of Congress Regarding Newly-Eligible Low-Income Consumers Newly Eligible for Discounted Telephone and Broadband Service Through Lifeline Program

On June 15, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to Members of Congress about the FCC's efforts to inform newly-eligible low-income consumers about their eligibility for discounted broadband and telephone service through the Lifeline program. The FCC and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the Lifeline program, have undertaken numerous efforts to promote Lifeline awareness during the pandemic to ensure that consumers who are newly eligible for the program due to loss of employment or income have the information and resources they need

WISPA Puts Price on FCC Connectivity Pledge

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) has come up with an estimate of how much it has cost its members to Keep Americans Connected over the life of the Federal Communications Commission-prompted voluntary pledge that they do so during the pandemic. According to WISPA, which polled its members on June 23, the average cost was over $30,000 per operator. That was based on an average sub count of 1,500. The costs broke down this way: $25,000 to cover nonpayment; $3,200 in waived late fees, and $4,500 in free Wi-Fi.