The gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all.
The issue of high-speed broadband access has been a concern in Lawrence County (OH) and rural parts of the nation for some time and, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for connectivity has only become more apparent.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D-CO) led a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity necessary to participate in telemedicine, teleschooling, and telework as part of any legislation that provides relief and recovery resources related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter sent to congressional leaders, the attorneys general urge Congress to:
A call for partnerships to expand safe and affordable connectivity to New York City Housing Authority residents
New York City is committed to the goal of universal broadband, as described in the New York City Internet Master Plan (2020). In light of COVID-related health and safety guidance from New York City and public health officials, internet access in the home has become an even more essential service, required for safe access to health care, continuation of employment and schooling, and connections to family and friends.
Despite private-sector broadband investment exceeding $70 billion per year since 2013, the digital divide remains. Over 20 million households have access to, but are not connected via, a fixed broadband connection. This is a classic market failure. Without some government intervention, there will be an under-consumption of broadband. But what kind of intervention is called for?
As the novel coronavirus has spread across the United States, so too have efforts to bring Internet access to digitally disconnected households during a time of nationwide social distancing.
For many Americans during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, gaining access to high-speed Internet hinged on the temporary charity of private service providers, or perhaps required a family to drive to a more connected area.
Representatives of rural and Native communities share stories about the experience of lacking a broadband connection when the service is necessary to work, study, and obtain healthcare, safely. These brief anecdotes illustrate the negative impact that substandard service or lack of service has on the safety and wellbeing of rural and Native communities in general, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors offer the Federal Communications Commission 12 recommendations:
The Federal Communications Commission announced that it is partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to promote the use of $50 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help address the digital divide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The agencies will team up to raise awareness of these funds among libraries and Tribal organizations, which can use them to increase broadband access in their communities.
Like many school districts nationwide, COVID-19 forced the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) to brainstorm ways to provide internet access for families in need. It partnered with Wander, a company with high-speed internet options at $25 per month, to provide free access to its fixed wireless networks for the remainder of the school year.
Internet providers like Charter and Comcast have introduced offers of free and low-cost internet with great fanfare in the last several weeks. The companies have said they want to help connect poor Americans during a pandemic that has shifted much of life online. Schools and community organizations have aggressively promoted the offers. Scores of customers have tried to sign up. But people signing up for the programs have encountered unexpected difficulties and roadblocks, according to interviews with people who have tried to sign up or who have helped them.