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.

Rural Broadband Fix Gets Year-End Priority for House Agriculture Chairman David Scott

House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) is pressing to expand by the end of 2021 high-speed internet access to all 24 million Americans without it. The deadline from Chairman Scott comes as bipartisan lawmakers and the broadband industry call for a permanent solution to internet access hurdles in remote locales, instead of relying on pilot loan programs.

It Will Take a Lot More Than Money to Fix the Digital Divide

The particulars of how the Biden Administration will execute the American Jobs Plan are scant for now, and it’s far from guaranteed that all of the $100 billion will make it through Congress unscathed. As more details emerge on how exactly this $100 billion would be spent, though, here are some major considerations that could determine how successful the plan will be.

Nebraska PSC Commissioner Crystal Rhoades: Only 3 Percent of Eligible State Residents receiving Lifeline Aid is an Outrage

/Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner Crystal Rhoades commented on the Promoting Access to Broadband Act introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) to increase wireless and broadband access to the federal Lifeline program for low-income urban and rural Americans.

Verizon Fios on fire with best Q1 adds in 6 years

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg predicted strong demand for broadband would persist well beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, as the operator posted its highest number of Q1 Fios Internet net additions in six years. The company added a total of 102,000 Fios Internet customers across its consumer and business segments, with nearly all of these (98,000) coming from the former.

President Biden's infrastructure plan could transform broadband in the U.S.

In 2021, the big show for broadband stimulus will come in the bill that emerges from President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan–the American Jobs Plan. Democratic and Republican lawmakers should be able to find plenty of common ground in the core parts of the bill. Members of both parties are hearing from their constituents about the shortcomings of broadband service now that remote working and schooling have become central parts of life. Other issues will have to be hashed out:

Personal Tech and the Pandemic: Older Adults Are Upgrading for a Better Online Experience

The pandemic might be the bridge to close the generational tech divide as older adults flocked to adopt technology in 2020. Usage increased across the technological spectrum, according to AARP’s annual technology survey. Older adults are streaming movies and TV shows, video-chatting with loved ones and colleagues, and buying new smart devices, such as TVs, phones, watches, tablets, home assistants, and home security. With social distancing restricting social interaction, adults 50 and older not only snatched up new devices, but also were more likely to use them daily.

Verizon Granted Limited Waiver of Timing of Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Reimbursement Claims

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau granted the petition of Verizon seeking an expedited grant of a limited waiver of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program) reimbursement rules.

FCC Begins Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Testing

The Federal Communications Commission opened the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to participating broadband providers for testing. This important milestone will allow these providers to familiarize themselves with the Program systems in anticipation of the impending consumer launch of the Program. As the agency continues to work to rapidly deliver much-needed relief to families across the country, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in record time. I am thrilled that we have more than 600 providers now committed to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

Creating an Emergency Connectivity Fund to Outlast the Pandemic

The recently-approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocated $7.171 billion to a new Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), an historic expansion of the E-rate program to connect students, teachers, and library patrons who lack home broadband access.

FCC Commissioner Carr Wants Chairman Rosenworcel to Publish E-Rate Plans Ahead of Vote

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr is urging Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to publicly release the draft text of a forthcoming proposal allocating $7.1 billion in pandemic relief subsidies for distance learning. Commissioner Carr says she should publish it before commissioners vote on the item to make it easier to coordinate with the Departments of Education and Treasury on broadband spending, which he sees as a matter of good governance with taxpayer money.