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.

To Help Close Digital Divide for Nearly 17 Million Students, AT&T Offers Discounted Wireless Data Plans with Free Wi-Fi Hotspots and Makes $10 Million Commitment to Help Underserved Communities

AT&T is offering discounted unlimited wireless data plans and content filtering services to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country for a limited time. Offer details include:

OpenVault Broadband Insights Report Q3 2020

A rapid rise in the number of “power users” consuming 1 TB or more of data per month and continued migration to faster speed tiers are creating new revenue opportunities for broadband service providers, according to the Q3 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insights report. The report also provides a more detailed breakdown of the outsized impact of power users and gigabit speeds on network capacity, particularly in the upstream. Key findings in the OVBI Q32020 report include:

Four Ways to Promote Digital Inclusion for California's Workers

To support workers and industries now and in a Future of Work transformed by technological changes, policymakers should invest in digital skill building for quality jobs, as well as access to broadband and digital devices. Recommendations for promoting digital inclusion for California's workers:

A Signal Failure: Education, Broadband, and Our Children’s Future

Solving the problems of internet access goes well beyond throwing billions of dollars at the companies with the best lobbyists or most convincing executives. There is no single policy to solve the broadband problems faced by the nation. In most cases, better networks and lower prices would really help, but achieving that would require different strategies in rural or urban areas.

Bridging the digital divide for students with disabilities

The unexpected shift to the remote workplace and classroom brought on by COVID-19 has left many families across the country with inequitable access to devices and technology infrastructure, a problem known as the digital divide. For students with disabilities, the digital divide is not only an issue of access to broadband and technological devices, but also about ensuring that the technology is 

Transitioning tech policy in an existential crisis

Confronting the Biden transition are five existential crises. The pandemic is surging. The economy is stalling. Social justice is faltering. Climate change is on a rampage. And the government that is essential to dealing with each of these problems has been hollowed out by four years of constant attacks. And, oh yes, these issues must be dealt with despite a potentially divided government and deeply divided citizenry. As a tech policy wonk, I am often asked, “How will the Biden transition handle tech policy?” It is the wrong question.

How shared spectrum connectivity benefits distance learning

Today, more than 9 million students lack proper access to reliable broadband internet at home, which creates obstacles for both the students and teachers.

The Enormous Cost Of Digital Inequality

Both unintentionally and by design, we have reinforced a digital caste system that continues to divide communities into the “haves” and “have-nots.” What still remains unclear is not whether we can reverse engineer the disparate impact, but whether we, as a nation, believe that every resident in every community deserves equal access to a digital society. We need a plan, the kind that reaches every corner of the US. We need a nationwide strategy for broadband access that recognizes the importance of high-performance digital infrastructure and supports widespread adoption.

Not a Luxury: Pandemic Highlights Digital Divide in Rural Areas in Missouri and Kansas

St. Clair County, about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, has a population of about 9,000 people. Roughly 18% of them live below the poverty line.  Theresa Heckenlively is the head of economic development for the county, and says lack of internet access is hurting the county now, and limiting its future.  “We don’t have enough service to be reliable for home and definitely not enough for economic growth,” Heckenlively said. “We see that a lot of people are coming from out of state and want to move into our rural communities.

The State of Wisconsin is serious about expanding broadband access, and that starts with accurate data

The State of Wisconsin has centered broadband mapping as a core issue in its efforts to expand access. For now, the onus has shifted to state and local governments to collect information on broadband access and adoption. COVID-19 demands accelerated those efforts, many of which were already underway in Wisconsin.