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.

Governor Moore Announces $69 Million in Federal Funds to Support High-Speed, Affordable Internet Access for Unserved Marylanders

Governor Wes Moore (D-MD) announced $69 million in federal funding for two new programs to help more Marylanders access high-speed, affordable internet. Administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office of Statewide Broadband, the two programs, Home Stretch for Public Housing and Home Stretch for Difficult to Serve Properties, are expected to provide internet access to an estimated 15,000 unserved Maryland households.

Telehealth Usage among Low-income and Undocumented Californians

Statewide telehealth use jumped dramatically among low-income Californians covered by Medi-Cal in March 2020, when telehealth visits began to be reimbursed at the same rates as in-person visits. We find comparable trends in California’s community health centers (CHCs)—primary care clinics that serve all comers—for Medi-Cal and undocumented patients. However, telehealth can still pose challenges for those who are uncomfortable with technology or lack English proficiency.

Colorado Broadband Funding Program is Almost Four Times Oversubscribed

The Colorado Broadband Office received 112 applications from 37 entities requesting broadband funding through the Advance Colorado Broadband grant program. The total funding requested totals $643 million, which is almost four times more than the $162 million budgeted for the program. The network operators requesting the funding offered to contribute a total of almost $312 million in matching funds for projects in 47 counties. Thirty counties received one application, and 17 counties received more than one.

FCC Announces Almost $38 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding for Schools and Libraries

The Federal Communications Commission committed $37.7 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, which provides digital tools and services to support students in communities across the country. This funding commitment supports applications from the third application window, benefitting approximately 100,000 students nationwide, including students in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington. This funding commitment supports approximately 220 schools and school districts, 2 library systems, and 4 consortia.

North Carolina Governor Cooper Urges Congress to Continue the ACP

Having a high-speed internet connection—and the ability to use it—is critical to modern life. One major challenge persists: we can run fiber broadband to every home in North Carolina, but if the residents can’t afford the service, they still risk being left behind. Fortunately, Congress created a tremendously impactful tool to combat the high costs of internet service as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). I urge you to reauthorize this critical program that makes internet access more affordable.

Treasury Department Announces Approval of Federal Funds to Connect Over 17,000 Oregonians

The Department of the Treasury approved $156.7 million for high-speed internet projects in Oregon under the American Rescue Plan Act's (ARPA) Capital Projects Fund (CPF). Oregon is approved to receive $149 million for broadband infrastructure projects, which the state estimates will connect approximately 17,195 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed internet.

Windstream Forms Public-Private Partnership is With Throckmorton, Texas

A $580,000 Windstream public–private partnership in Throckmorton (TX) has the provider’s Kinetic gigabit fiber broadband service available to public schools and 650 homes and businesses in the small city. The bulk of the financing—$420,000—is being provided by Windstream. The balance is coming from the Throckmorton Collegiate Independent School District’s operating budget ($20,000), the City of Throckmorton ($70,000) and Throckmorton County ($70,000).

Cleveland moves forward $20 million plan to expand broadband

The City of Cleveland (OH) is moving forward with Mayor Justin Bibb’s $20 million plan to expand broadband throughout the city. The revised plan would allocate $20 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to local nonprofit DigitalC to expand affordable broadband.

New Mexico Broadband Office Announces Final Set of Awards Funded by the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program

The New Mexico Office of Broadband Access and Expansion (OBAE) grants awards to 11 projects to deliver high-speed Internet to unserved and underserved communities across New Mexico. The projects involve budgets amounting to $106.3 million, which includes grant funding of $66.8 million and leveraged by cash and in-kind matching contributions of $39.5 million, yielding a match percentage of 37%. These funds will support the deployment of 803 miles of fiber to serve over 10,300 residential premises, businesses, and community institutions.

Majority Staff Memo | Connecting Every American: The Future of Rural Broadband Funding

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 8.3 million households lack access to high-speed broadband. Providing universal access to communications service—initially voice service and now broadband—has always been a challenge in the United States. Although connecting urban, populated areas is relatively easy, serving sparsely populated rural areas is difficult due to differences in terrain and population density.