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.

Moffett: Stimulus Could Help Maintain Broadband Boom

Cable operators, bracing for a slowdown after the robust broadband growth during the height of the pandemic may be in for a surprise. Federal money from the American Rescue Plan could help maintain, and in some cases spur, high-speed data additions in both urban and rural markets, according to MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett. Cable operators added more than 4 million broadband customers in 2020, the sector’s biggest growth spurt in a decade and one that occurred as penetration levels were in the 80% range.

Senate Commerce Broadband Hearing Hits on Speed, Mapping, Access

Expanding affordable broadband access is a rare issue with bipartisan support on the Hill. During the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Federal efforts to expand broadband access, senators from both parties joined together to express concerns over expanding access, ensuring accurate broadband connectivity maps, and figuring out how best to spend federal broadband funding.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Circulates Round 2 COVID-19 Telehealth Program Report and Order

Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration that, if adopted, would establish Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, a $249.95 million dollar federal initiative that builds on the $200 million program established as part of the CARES Act.

FCC Seeks Comment on Emergency Connectivity Fund to Close Homework Gap

To help schools and libraries provide devices and 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 (the American Rescue Plan or Act). Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission to promulgate rules providing for the distribution of funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund to eligible schools and libraries for the purchase of eligible equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services for use by stud

Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Sen Wicker Regarding the Funding Capabilities of the Universal Service Program

On March 2, 2021, Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) asked Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for a detailed status of funds report for all Universal Service Fund (USF) accounts, including but not limited to the Connect America Fund (CAF), Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers, E-Rate - Schools & Libraries Program, and the Rural Health Care Program.

What the American Rescue Plan Act Means for Libraries

When President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 on March 11, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) received $200 million, the largest single increase in the agency’s 25-year history. Of the $200 million, $178 million is allocated for the Library Services and Technology Act and will go to state library administrative agencies on a population-based formula. IMLS announced stat

Colorado aims to use pandemic to expand funding for broadband access

Colorado and federal lawmakers want to put big money into more efforts to expand high-speed internet access. In Colorado, about 90,000 rural residents and 65,000 students across the state do not have access or adequate access, according to a recent Colorado Broadband Office 

Why didn’t the CARES Act solve the digital divide?

Although President Biden has just signed the American Rescue Plan Act (including $7 billion in E-rate funding) into law, some believe that the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act already took care of the connectivity gap.

How the pandemic is reshaping education

School by Screen | School systems in America are not done with remote learning. They want more of it. School systems across the country are looking at remote learning as a way to meet diverse needs — for teenagers who have jobs, children with certain medical conditions, or kids who prefer learning virtually. It has also emerged as a way to expand access to less-common courses. If one high school offers a class in Portuguese, students at another school could join it remotely.

‘Big Burden' for Schools Trying to Give Kids Internet Access

Schools were working well before the pandemic to address the challenges presented by the digital divide, which disproportionately affects Black, Latino, and Native American students and those in low-income households. The shift to distance learning dramatically raised the stakes. Schools had to take a lead because the federal government has failed to make internet available and affordable, said Blair Levin, an Obama-era Federal Communications Commission official.“The schools were so stressed,” Levin said. “It was not easy. It was a big burden.”