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.

Our Internet Isn’t Ready for Coronavirus

Just as our public health system appears unable to cope with the spread of the coronavirus, our residential broadband, video conferencing platforms and VPNs are about to face unprecedented strain. That strain will have serious consequences, not just for the performance of our broadband networks but also for student access to education and the security of corporate data and networks. The performance issues might be worse in rural areas, where internet service is already less reliable than it is in big cities.

Coronavirus Fight Lays Bare Education’s Digital Divide

For all of China’s economic advancements in recent decades, the rudiments of connected life — capable smartphones, reliable internet — remain out of reach for large segments of the population.

Lessons From China on the Coronavirus and the Dangers of App Consolidation

While quarantined in her Wuhan apartment for days on end, the woman who calls herself “Sister Ma” suddenly found herself blocked from her account on WeChat, a platform used by more than 1 billion people in China. Without WeChat, she was cut off from communication with friends and family, the ability to order critical supplies, and contact with her children’s school. “My life is falling apart,” she wrote on a now-deleted but archived message on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Coronavirus Outrage Spurs China’s Internet Police to Action

As China tries to reshape the narrative of its fumbled response to the coronavirus outbreak, it is turning to a new breed of police that carry out real-world reprisals for digital misdeeds. The internet police, as they are known here, have gained power as the Communist Party has worked to seize greater control over the thoughts, words, and even memories of China’s 800 million web users. Now, they are emerging as a bulwark against the groundswell of anger over governance breakdowns that exacerbated the epidemic. Officers arrive with an unexpected rap at the door of online critics.

Tech shapes a new stay-at-home economy

As the coronavirus crisis forces daily life across the US into a new homebound template, the tech industry is swooping in to reshape how we shop, eat and entertain ourselves. Trends toward e-commerce, delivery services and online entertainment have long been underway, but this moment is accelerating them — and pushing the companies and industries behind them into a new position of dominance. The longer our public health crisis lasts, the more deeply these changes will etch themselves into the economy. As one of its side effects, the coronavirus pandemic could seal the fate of the digital ec

US Schools Deploy Remote Learning on Unprecedented Scale

Millions of US students will abruptly switch to learning remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushing school administrators and teachers to establish on the fly ways to transfer the classroom to the home. Teachers are incorporating educational technology that has never been used on this scale while also dealing with the limitations of internet access in some homes.

More Providers Take Chairman Pai's Keep Americans Connected Pledge

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that 116 more broadband and telephone service providers have taken his Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Chairman Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge on March 13 with 69 broadband and telephone providers across the country agreeing to take specific steps to help Americans stay connected for the next 60 days. March 16’s announcement means that 185 companies in total have now taken the Pledge. 

T-Mobile herds 600 MHz spectrum from other providers for COVID-19 response

T-Mobile worked with a variety of other providers to rustle up additional 600 MHz spectrum to help it meet increased customer demand for wireless broadband, as people are forced to work and learn from home. The companies that have agreed to contribute spectrum are Dish, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater and TStar License Holdings.  

Internet connections could stumble for some if too many family members try to videoconference at the same time

The US internet won’t get overloaded by spikes in traffic from the millions of Americans now working from home to discourage the spread of the new coronavirus, experts say. But connections could stumble for many if too many family members try to videoconference at the same time. The core of the US network is more than capable of handling the virus-related surge in demand because it has evolved to be able to easily handle bandwidth-greedy Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services.

As schools close due to the coronavirus, some U.S. students face a digital ‘homework gap’

As K-12 officials in many states close schools and shift classes and assignments online due to the spread of the new coronavirus, they confront the reality that some students do not have reliable access to the internet at home – particularly those who are from lower-income households. Here are key findings about the internet, homework and how the digital divide impacts American youth: