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.

To build lasting digital equity, look to communities

Local digital access projects around the country stand out because they are driven by residents maximizing their own creativity, imagination, and energy to do more than just provide internet service. They are cultivating relationships to solve their own problems and more importantly promote community well-being. In the process, they are bridging the digital divide. As Congress and the Biden-Harris administration consider a bold infrastructure funding package that could make broadband more accessible and affordable, they should support these local efforts.

Who Should Pay for Universal Broadband Connectivity?

The Universal Service Fund (USF) is currently on an unsustainable financial path, funded by a regressive surcharge on a shrinking base of telephone customers. If it isn’t fixed, and fixed quickly, the fund won’t be able to meet its mandate and fulfill its connectivity promise – not just to the next generation, but to the current one. So how do we fix USF? 

RCN, Grande and Wave Boost Speeds for Internet First Customers At No Cost

RCN, Grande and Wave announced that Internet First customers, both new and existing, are receiving a significant speed increase – double the speed of their current package – for no additional cost or required action. Internet First delivers reliably fast internet for just $9.95 per month to qualifying low-income households eligible for assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or WIC. Internet First includes:

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill to Expand Emergency Broadband Benefit Access

Sixteen Senate Democrats introduced new legislation building on the Emergency Broadband Connections Act to ensure working families can stay online through the current economic and health crisis. The new legislation would authorize an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, to accommodate high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Funding for K-12 Home Connectivity

There is no shortage of options for immediate and long-term funding for K-12 home connectivity solutions.

FOR LONG TERM K-12 FUNDING:

Ajit Pai: Louisiana should partner with feds to enhance broadband investment

Louisiana should partner with the Federal Communications Commission to maximize funding for broadband infrastructure, said former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. The FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a $20.4 billion program meant to promote broadband internet access in unserved and underserved areas.

The FCC’s $7 Billion Fund to Address the ‘Homework Gap’: 6 Key Issues to Watch

The Federal Communications Commission has a new $7 billion pot for schools to recoup the costs of paying for student and teacher access to broadband at home — and now the agency must figure out how to distribute the money. Here are six critical issues that companies keeping track of the FCC program should watch for:

1. What Devices and Services Will Be Eligible?

2. Will Purchases From 2020 Be Eligible?

3. How Will Procurement Work?

American Rescue Plan includes historic broadband investment for Maine

The digital divide leaves millions without access to high-speed broadband and the immense opportunities it provides. I’m proud to say that we have secured a historic broadband investment in the American Rescue Plan. First, $10 billion for broadband deployment and infrastructure, digital inclusion and other efforts to close the digital divide. These funds represent one of the most important broadband investments ever made in the history of the United States.

FCC Asks, "How Can $7 Billion Close the Homework Gap?"

To help schools and libraries provide devices and internet connectivity to students, school staff, and library patrons during the pandemic, Congress established a $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Now the Federal Communications Commission must craft rules to distribute the new funds to eligible schools and libraries for the purchase of eligible equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services for use by students, school staff, and library patrons at locations other than a school or library.