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.

America’s digital divide is an emergency

Far too many Americans are cut off from access to affordable high-speed Internet even as more of our core systems go digital. Unchecked, the result will be an America even more unequal than the one we see today. The United States has failed in the equitable delivery of this public good. The disparity will almost certainly lead to further inequity. No American should suffer the indignity of searching for Internet. Starbucks WiFi is not a social safety net.

US Chamber Releases Recommendations for Closing the Digital Divide in Rural America

The US Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) released nine policy principles aimed at closing America’s digital divide.

Broadband Connectivity During the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis laid bare critical shortcomings in our approach to universal service.  As good as our networks are, broadband accessibility is an issue for some American households. We believe bold action is needed – it is time for Congress to modernize and reform USF (Universal Service Fund) programs and establish a secure funding source for broadband connectivity for all Americans.

House Democrats Introduce The Moving Forward Act

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR) was joined by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva in releasing the text of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act.

How the US’ massive failure to close digital divide got exposed by coronavirus

Three out of every four Americans who lack broadband access have the infrastructure in their neighborhood but haven’t connected to it. Most just don’t have the money. Unlike in other wealthy nations, the federal government has imposed no cost controls to make broadband more affordable.

Home Broadband Requirements: What is necessary for students (and families) during COVID-19 and beyond?

If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is that access to broadband is now a social determinant of health, education, work, and economic security. What do we hope that our legislative and government agency leaders will consider?

Pandemic Internet Aid Is Ending, But Digital Divide Remains

Several of the internet discount programs from the Keep Americans Connected pledge are set to end in the coming weeks — a looming expiration that, if left unaddressed, threatens to unravel a precarious thread of the social safety net at a particularly difficult time for many American families. Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, said that although the school year is winding down, the need for access to the web — and the challenge of affording it — have not gone away.

FCC Chairman Pai Urges Congress To Help Consumers Stay Connected Following End Of Keep Americans Connected Pledge On June 30

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to Congress seeking legislation to help consumers and small businesses stay connected over the coming months after the end of the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. While the Pledge expires on June 30, Chairman Pai informed Congress that he has asked companies not to disconnect consumers and small businesses who are behind on their bills due to the coronavirus pandemic in July, but instead offer the option of extended payment plans and deferred payment arrangements.

Chairman Pai's Response to Senators Regarding Helping Students Maintain Connectivity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 16, 2020, 16 senators wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging the FCC to use its emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic to temporarily waive relevant E-rate program rules and allow its beneficiaries to utilize universal service funding to provide home wireless service to existing school devices and hotspots for students who lack internet access at home. 

Remarks Of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to the Broadband India Forum Webinar Celebrating World Wi-Fi Day

We’ve come together to celebrate World Wi-Fi Day, which is [June 20]. You could make the case that every day has been Wi-Fi Day since the pandemic took hold. I think it’s appropriate that the focus of this event is on the power of Wi-Fi to help bridge the digital divide—to connect the unconnected. What is the Federal Communications Commission doing to harness the power of Wi-Fi to bridge the digital divide?