Coronavirus and Connectivity
Chairman Pai's Response to Members of Congress Regarding Telecommunications Connectivity in Puerto Rico During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On May 26, 2020, Reps Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Darren Soto (D-FL) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to request the FCC to provide an update on the status of communications networks in Puerto Rico and determine whether its residents have maintained reliable connectivity throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The Reps wrote they were deeply concerned about the potential for continued communications disruptions, in light of recent earthquakes and the lingering impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
On Aug 18 and 19, 2020, several Members of Congress wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman AJit Pai requesting the FCC immediately extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window deadline by no less than 180 says "as Tribal nations continue to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis." On July 31, the FCC published an order granting an extremely limited 30-day extension of the application deadline, "which is 150 days fewer than prior requests from members of Congress and the U.S.
When it comes to telemedicine in 2020—and thanks to coronavirus, 2020 turns out to be the year for telemedicine—the digital divide isn’t equally distributed. In the early days of the pandemic, the federal government says, 44 percent of Medicare-funded primary care visits were conducted virtually; that figure was 0.1 percent in Feb.
More than a decade after experimenting with free municipal Wi-Fi, the city of Dayton (OH) wants to give it another try as COVID-19 increasingly forces people to use the Internet for medical appointments, work, learning, communication and staying in touch. The city is looking at using some of its federal coronavirus relief funds to offer free wireless Internet in northwest Dayton to provide access to telemedicine platforms and remote health care services during and after the pandemic, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on the Rural Telehealth Initiative, a joint effort to collaborate and share information to address health disparities, resolve service provider challenges, and promote broadband services and technology to rural areas in America. This action delivers on President Donald Trump’s recently signed Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access.
Inclusion is at the foundation of communications policy in this country. The Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 both rest on the notion that advanced communications networks should be universally available and affordable. The COVID-19 pandemic shows that there is still more to be done to adapt these policy principles to the internet age. In just two decades, having the internet at home has gone from being a toy for hobbyists to an indispensable tool for commerce, education, and connectedness.
I’ve been asked to speak briefly about our experiences dealing with the pandemic in the United States, and some of the lessons we might be able to apply to unexpected events in the future. When it comes to America’s communications networks, the top headline is that they have performed extremely well during the COVID-19 pandemic. As one would expect, we saw significant increases in voice and Internet traffic as our lives and the economy moved online due to the pandemic. Our wired and wireless networks handled this surge without any significant service disruptions or declines.
On June 17, 2020, various Members of Congress wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to urge the FCC to implement Lifeline waivers for all Lifeline applicants, as the FCC did for rural Tribal residents in June.
There are 45,000 households in Charlotte (NC) without a subscription to broadband Internet. Unlike rural swaths of the state, the city is rich in infrastructure and competition from service providers. Across North Carolina, about 20% of homes have no Internet subscription, but in certain urban neighborhoods, that number is more than doubled.