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.

What America Can Do to Strengthen Its Communications Infrastructure

Network reliability and network resiliency are distinct concepts that are inextricably linked. “Network reliability” means that you can rely on the fact that you will have phone service to make and receive phone calls and text messages. As an example, a network can become unreliable from a lack of network maintenance that leads to total degradation, or a lack of preparation to handle technological failure.

After deregulatory blitz, FCC scrambles to prevent ISP abuse during pandemic

Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, Internet service providers pledged to waive late fees and keep customers connected when they miss payments due to the coronavirus pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that many ISPs signed his "Keep Americans Connected Pledge." But while the pledge prevents disconnections and late fees, Chairman Pai was unwilling or unable to convince ISPs to waive data caps during the pandemic. Pai's announcement said he "also called on broadband providers to relax their data cap policies in appropriate circumstances." But the pledge doesn't i

FCC Directs USAC to Extend E-Rate Application Filing Window for Funding Year 2020 Due to Potential Coronavirus Disruptions

To minimize potential disruptions caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Federal Communications Commission directs the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to extend the deadline for E-Rate applicants to submit their Funding Year (FY) 2020 FCC Form 471 applications by an additional 35 days. E-Rate applicants will now have until Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

Charter to Offer Free Access to Spectrum Broadband and Wi-Fi For 60 Days For New K-12 and College Student Households and More

Americans rely on high speed broadband in nearly every aspect of their lives and Charter is committed to ensuring our customers maintain reliable access to the online resources and information they want and need. To ease the strain in this challenging time, beginning March 16, Charter commits to the following for 60 days:

Chairman Pai Launches the Keep Americans Connected Pledge

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai emphasized the importance of keeping Americans connected as the country experiences serious disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. And in order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked them to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. The Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

Is US Broadband Up to the Response to the Coronavirus?

Broadband makes telehealth, telework, and distance learning possible. But is U.S. broadband up to the task of delivering these services to everyone in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19)? Both the government and private sector are moving to online systems and operations, but not everyone in the US can easily follow. Large hospitals across the country are quickly expanding the use of telemedicine to safely screen and treat patients for coronavirus, and to try to contain the spread of infection while offering remote services.

Broadband providers brace for coronavirus stress test

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai spoke with broadband companies and trade associations about ensuring Americans can remain connected to the internet as coronavirus spreads. Some of the ideas that came up in the talks included expanding discounted internet service tiers for low-income people, easing data limits and minimizing service interruptions for subscribers, one of the people said. The nation's internet service providers say they haven't seen big usage spikes yet, but the coming weeks and months could pose an unprecedented test of their networks' ability to withstand

House Commerce Committee Urges Communications Providers to Address COVID-19 Connectivity Challenges

Rep Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09) led a letter to nine major communications providers asking them to outline any potentials plans they are considering implementing to address connectivity challenges related to COVID-19, particularly for individuals who are impacted by the digital divide. Congressman McNerney was joined by 11 other Democratic Members on the House Commerce Committee, including the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA-14).

Sen Warner Leads Colleagues in Urging ISPs to Suspend Service Terms Affecting Telepresence Services During Coronavirus Outbreak

Sen Mark Warner (D-VA) led 17 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs) calling on the companies to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. In the letter, sent to the CEOS of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Sens call on companies to suspend restrictions and fees that could limit telepresence options.

AT&T waives data cap during coronavirus; Comcast keeps charging overage fees

AT&T is waiving home-Internet data caps during the coronavirus pandemic. AT&T imposes monthly data caps of 150GB on DSL, 250GB on fixed wireless, and 1TB on most of its faster wireline services. Overage charges are $10 for each additional 50GB, up to a maximum of $100 or $200 per month, depending on the plan.  AT&T provides unlimited data to customers when they subscribe to the gigabit-speed tier or when they purchase both Internet and TV service. There's also an option to pay $30 extra per month for unlimited data.