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.

With its Sprint merger in the bag, T-Mobile is already backing away from its promises

T-Mobile and Sprint completed their merger on April 1. And now — no surprise to the deal’s opponents — the merged company is already reneging on some of conditions regulators imposed to approve the deal. Most recently T-Mobile has moved to overturn several conditions imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission, including at least one the company specifically promised Atty. Gen.

T-Mobile strikes 600 MHz spectrum leases in 8 out of 10 top markets

T-Mobile has applied for instant spectrum leases with Channel 51 License Company and LB License Co. to lease 600 MHz spectrum in a number of major markets, including Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, St. Louis, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, and Seattle, among others.

Chairman Pai: FCC Working with Dept of Education to Spread Word on Ed Tech Funding

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai says that while the FCC's hands are tied when it comes to applying E-rate schools and libraries funding to remote learning during the pandemic, there are billions of dollars that could already be applied to that purpose Congress has already allocated and the FCC is working on getting educators to spend on education tech. Chairman Pai said he understood the frustration, and had asked Congress to clear away that statutory language impediment in the meantime.

FCC Acts To Ensure Critical Wireless Infrastructure Projects Continue To Proceed During Pandemic

The Federal Communications Commission has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that critical communications infrastructure projects continue to proceed at a time when so many Americans are relying on high-speed Internet services. On June 25, the FCC announced a process that has been developed in coordination with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that will further expedite the process for reviewing those infrastructure builds.

FCC Announces Close of Filing Window for COVID-19 Telehealth Program

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau will no longer accept new applications for funding from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Based on the applications received to date, demand for funding exceeds available Program funds and, as a result, the public interest is not served by imposing burdens on health care providers who may prepare new
applications that cannot be funded under the current appropriation. 

House Republicans Unveil Bills to Close Digital Divide

House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OR) unveiled a package of 26 bills that aim to streamline the deployment of broadband infrastructure. These bills, spearheaded by Republican members of the House Commerce Committee, would promote new and upgraded infrastructure deployments, incentivize competition and consumer choice, right-size regulations for building infrastructure across industries, and facilitate broadband deployment on federal lands. The 26 bills would:

Sen Manchin collects more than 1,000 speed tests

Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been collecting speed tests from his constituents to turn over to the Federal Communication Commission to prove their broadband data maps are wrong. His initial goal of collecting 1,000 speed tests in 2020 was accomplished the week of June 22. He says he's now looking to reach 1,500 or even 2,000. “This just a small sampling,” Sen Manchin said. “This is happening all over America. Rural America is getting left behind.

Does the Federal Broadband Definition Reflect Real-World Need?

Does the federal definition of broadband reflect what Americans need today? The current definition, 25 Mbps download speed/3 Mbps upload speed, was set by the Federal Communications Commission, led by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in 2015.

Reactions to the Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act

On June 24, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and other House Reps introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (HR 7302) which invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting internet service is affordable.

House Task Force on Rural Broadband Introduce Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force, and House Democrats introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (HR 7302). The bill would invest $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting internet service is affordable. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act would do the following: