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.

Cox Expands Commitment to Bridging the Learning Divide, Provides Additional Support for Kids and Families Learning from Home

Cox announced an expanded commitment to bridging the learning divide as part of its ongoing effort to support kids and families learning and teaching from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Through June 30, 2021 Cox is suspending late fees and extending payment relief offerings for customers in the company's low-cost internet program Connect2Compete who express an inability to pay due to pandemic hardships.

Senator Schatz leads 15 Senators in Demanding FCC Increase Funding for Health Providers, Help Expand Telehealth Services During Pandemic

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) led a group of 15 senators in urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to increase funding for and improve the operations of the Rural Health Care (RHC) program, which helps expand access to telehealth services in hard-to-reach and economically depressed communities. “Cash-strapped health care providers are looking to the RHC Program for help to defray these costs, but you have so far not taken steps that would allow health care providers to receive additional support through the program,” they wrote.

Project to Provide Free Internet to Support Distance Learning in Shadowwood Mobile Home Park

The City of Champaign (IL) is pleased to announce the installation of new equipment to provide wireless Internet connectivity to Champaign Unit 4 students living in the Shadowwood Mobile Home Park. Through a collaborative project, new wi-fi equipment is being installed in Shadowwood Aug 19-21, 2020, with the goal of having the equipment fully operational to support online learning by the start of the fall semester. The City of Champaign is coordinating the project with cooperation from Unit 4 Schools, i3 Broadband, Mesh++, Ameren Illinois, and Shadowwood Mobile Home Park.

Chairman Pai's Response to Members of Congress Regarding the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window

On July 30, 2020, numerous Members of Congress wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajti Pai to request that the FCC extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window by 180 days — until Feb 1, 2021 — while not delaying further necessary proceedings associated with the auction in order that it stay on track.

Texas Education Agency and Verizon enable distance learning for 18.9 Million students in 16 states

Verizon has partnered with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Gov Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) Operation Connectivity initiative to provide up to 18.9 million students in Texas and 15 neighboring states with a simple and quick way to access critical distance learning technologies.

For students without home internet during pandemic, could FCC's E-Rate help?

The Federal Communications Commission has promoted several emergency measures to boost broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic, which has required millions of people to rely on inadequate at-home internet connections for work and school. But without an immediate expansion of the agency’s E-Rate program — a K-12 school-based broadband subsidy created in 1996 — students around the country will continually be locked out of their virtual classrooms, said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

HHS Awards over $35 million to Increase Access to High Quality Health Care in Rural Communities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded over $35 million to more than 50 rural organizations across 33 states as part of a sustained federal effort to increase access to high-quality care in rural communities. The awards reflect investments in key areas including telehealth, health workforce training, health research, technical assistance for vulnerable rural hospitals and HIV care and treatment. The awards include:

17 Million Students Lack Home Internet. With No Relief From Congress in Sight, Schools Deploy an Awkward Mix of Buses, Mobile Hotspots to Get Them Online

Rolling Wi-Fi-enabled school buses into neighborhoods and distributing personal hotspots to families were part of Washington's Central Kitsap School District's rapid response to getting families online once schools closed in the spring. But such programs have limitations and don’t always provide students the high-speed connections they need for Zoom classes and completing assignments — especially if there are multiple students in the home. While the problem permeates much of rural America, the lack of broadband can even be an issue for students living in tech hubs.

A world divided into “cans” and “cannots”

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech … and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine, and manufacturing.