Coronavirus and Connectivity
I wanted to use my remarks to talk more broadly about the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to connect all Americans. The FCC’s first and foremost mission is to help ensure that every American can access advanced communications. On my first full day in this job in Jan 2017, I convened a meeting of the FCC’s staff. I told them that our number one priority would be closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of the Internet age to all Americans. And for good reason.
Comcast now has over 30 million broadband customers, by far the largest broadband provider in the US. Usually, Comcast’s broadband gains overshadow modest broadband performance at rivals AT&T and Verizon. But broadband growth during COVID-19 is shared. Combined, AT&T and Verizon added nearly 500K fiber broadband subscribers during the third quarter of 2020 -- as Comcast added 633,000 customers.
Comcast reported results for the quarter ended September 30, 2020. The company added a record 633,000 high-speed internet customers. Highspeed internet revenue increased 10.1%, due to an increase in the number of residential high-speed internet customers and an increase in average rates. Wireless revenue increased 22.8%, due to an increase in the number of customer lines.
How did stakeholders respond to school closings and the digital divide -- and what lessons can be learned from those efforts to close the digital divide going forward? This report highlights case studies at the state, city, and school district level and concludes that there are three key steps in the still unfinished endeavor of closing the K–12 digital divide during the pandemic.
The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. Sohn and other critics of the four companies that dominate US broadband—Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T—argue that antitrust intervention has been needed for years to lower prices and widen internet access.
The pandemic has widened long-existing inequities like the digital divide — the term used to refer to the fact that many people across the country lack access to affordable broadband due to a cycle of profit-driven discrimination. Congress cannot stand idly by while millions of people across the country are unable to connect with loved ones, work from home, engage in distance learning, take advantage of telehealth or otherwise fully participate in society because they lack affordable broadband access.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief a host of problems that at their core are about fairness—issues of racial justice, economic security, and the digital divide, among others. I am an optimist, and believe that technology, and the wireless communications sector in particular, has an important role to play here.
This election, Chicagoans will vote on a non-binding referendum about whether Chicago should ensure citywide access to broadband internet. The referendum provides a unique opportunity to envision a more innovative way to connect Illinoisans—through investment in an open access broadband network. The largest such network in operation in the US is the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA. In South Side neighborhoods where approximately fifty percent of the residents lack reliable internet service, open access broadband would be a game changer—the difference between eno
There’s no doubt that more patients and providers are relying on telehealth than ever before. But rural Americans are 10 times more likely to lack broadband access than their urban counterparts. This rural telehealth crisis must be addressed at the federal level. Whatever the total cost of solving the rural broadband challenge, it is clear that tens of billions of dollars in federal investment is needed. Critics may claim that the private sector can, and should, solve this problem. But if that were true, it would have already done so.