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.

FCC Commissioner Starks on COVID-19 and the Digital Divide

On April 7, the Joint Center convened a panel of experts and key stakeholders for an online policy forum with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to discuss the concept of a “connectivity stimulus” to ensure that people in all communities in the United States are connected and have access to online education and economic opportunities during and following the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 highlights technology as our first line of defense

As we wrap our heads around the new normal of sheltering in place and trying to care for those in our communities that are truly devastated by COVID-19, the technologies that connect us – from the internet to wireless to GPS – are now the first line of contact and defense for nearly everything we do. Information and communications technologies have created a remarkable ability to connect, inform, work remotely and innovate. While these capabilities benefit the world in a wide range of ways, their benefits are not distributed equally.

AlticeUSA Extends Free Broadband to Students

Altice USA said it is extending its free broadband service to students in its service territory until June 30, 2020. The company also has been partnering with school districts in the New York Tri-state area to offer its Student WiFi product at no cost for 60 days, a program that provides students who have school-issued devices the ability to use the Optimum WiFi Hotspot Network to access their school’s network and resources from home if they do not have dedicated Internet access. To date, Altice USA has partnered with more than 100 school districts and connected more than 240,000 student de

Slow Internet Is Speeding the Spread of the Coronavirus in Kashmir

In August 2019, India’s government revoked Kashmir’s special autonomous status and locked down the region, which has a population of around 8 million. The lockdown was followed by the democratic world’s longest internet shutdown, which was partially lifted on Jan. 25 when authorities restored access to 2G internet. But the denial of high-speed internet still prevents people from using banking apps, paying their bills, and accessing services—even forcing some out of their homes.

830 Groups Urge Congress to Halt Broadband, Electricity and Water Shutoffs in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

830 utility-justice, environmental, faith, digital-rights and civil-rights groups sent a letter to Congress calling for the next congressional COVID-19 relief package to include a moratorium on broadband, electricity and water shutoff. The letter also calls for stimulus funds to address the systemic issues that lead to shutoffs. These issues include racial and economic inequities that can be addressed with improved affordable broadband programs including Lifeline; distributed solar energy; and percentage-of-income water-affordability initiatives.

A Partisan Debate Emerges Over Internet Dead Zones

Speedier 5G wireless technology is rekindling a long-running debate over the best way to reach America’s internet dead zones: by wire or by wave. Cellphone carriers including Verizon and T-Mobile  say new wireless technologies will let them serve more home-broadband subscribers without sending a technician to wire up a customer’s house. The companies have promised to build profitable services where other wireless broadband companies, like Clearwire, have failed to build a viable business, but they have yet to detail how many wireless homes they serve.

US's digital divide 'is going to kill people' as Covid-19 exposes inequalities

The COVID-19 crisis is exposing how the cracks in the US’s creaking digital infrastructure are potentially putting lives at risk, exclusive research shows. With most of the country on lockdown and millions relying on the internet for work, healthcare, education and shopping, research by M-Lab, an open source project which monitors global internet performance, showed that internet service slowed across the country after the lockdown. “This is going to kill people,” said Sascha Meinrath, a professor at Penn State University and co-founder of M-Lab.

Monopoly ISPs Too Big to Make Good on Covid-19 Internet Offers

Many national Internet service providers (ISPs) have introduced free and discounted plans to keep people connected during the crisis (though there are still holdouts). The charity of these companies is commendable, but their plans still leave many people disconnected, forcing them to choose between staying safe at home and accessing essential services. Eligibility oversights leave out households in need, and overwhelmed call centers make signing up for programs difficult.

Reps Shakowsky, King Introduce Legislation to Assist Seniors with Health Care Access and Communications with Loved Ones During COVID-19 Crisis

Reps Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter King (R-NY) introduced the Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act. In March, Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)  introduced the bill in the Senate (S. 3517). Specifically, the ACCESS Act would:

Google and Apple's COVID-19 Plans Under the Microscope

Google and Apple’s plan to team up to create new contact tracing technology to combat the coronavirus is already raising eyebrows among key policymakers in Washington.