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.

Chicago Connected Tackles “Startling Gaps in Internet Connectivity” for City Students

Over the summer, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new program to bring high-speed Internet service to the alarming number of households who do not have reliable access within the nation’s third-largest school district, called Chicago Connected. The program aims to provide free high-speed Internet service to approximately 100,000 Chicago Public Schools students. At the end of Sept, during a virtual town hall meeting, Mayor Lightfoot said that while CPS was making progress connecting eligible families, they had not yet reached the goal. “We’re not where we want it to be.

'Every day, we're falling behind in Appalachian Ohio': Lack of broadband hurts rural areas

Hundreds of thousands of families are challenged by modern economic, education, and health-care systems while living without internet access in rural Ohio. COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue, but the problem has been persistent in Appalachia for decades. In 2019 the Buckeye Hills Regional Council applied for a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to conduct an eight-county study — in Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry and Washington counties — in partnership with Ohio University and the Athens County Economic Development Council.

Senate Democrats call on power, water, telecom giants to halt all utility shutoffs

Top Senate Democrats are calling on electric, gas, water and telecommunications giants to voluntarily halt all utility shutoffs for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The request - sent in a letter to 21 of the largest utility companies including AT&T and Verizon - illustrates the country’s lingering economic needs even as Washington fails to coalesce around a new coronavirus relief package, which congressional Democrats say should include a disconnection ban and other aid to help fa

Rep. McNerney Demands Transparency for Consumers’ Internet and Phone Service Complaints

Rep Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09) sent Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai a letter following up on the Congressman’s request that the Chairman make publicly available all consumer complaints that the agency has received regarding internet and phone service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep McNerney asked Chairman Pai for a commitment to do this when the Chairman testified on September 17, 2020 at the House Commerce Committee’s FCC oversight hearing.

Chairman Pai Remarks to Calix Connexions Conference

I wanted to use my remarks to talk more broadly about the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to connect all Americans. The FCC’s first and foremost mission is to help ensure that every American can access advanced communications. On my first full day in this job in Jan 2017, I convened a meeting of the FCC’s staff. I told them that our number one priority would be closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of the Internet age to all Americans. And for good reason.

Broadband Surge Continues Amidst COVID-19

Comcast now has over 30 million broadband customers, by far the largest broadband provider in the US. Usually, Comcast’s broadband gains overshadow modest broadband performance at rivals AT&T and Verizon. But broadband growth during COVID-19 is shared. Combined, AT&T and Verizon added nearly 500K fiber broadband subscribers during the third quarter of 2020 -- as Comcast added 633,000 customers. 

Comcast Adds 633,000 Broadband Customers

Comcast reported results for the quarter ended September 30, 2020. The company added a record 633,000 high-speed internet customers. Highspeed internet revenue increased 10.1%, due to an increase in the number of residential high-speed internet customers and an increase in average rates. Wireless revenue increased 22.8%, due to an increase in the number of customer lines.

Connect All Students: How States and School Districts Can Close the Digital Divide

How did stakeholders respond to school closings and the digital divide --  and what lessons can be learned from those efforts to close the digital divide going forward? This report highlights case studies at the state, city, and school district level and concludes that there are three key steps in the still unfinished endeavor of closing the K–12 digital divide during the pandemic.

The Tech Antitrust Problem No One Is Talking About: Broadband Providers

The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. Sohn and other critics of the four companies that dominate US broadband—Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T—argue that antitrust intervention has been needed for years to lower prices and widen internet access.