The gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all.
Just two weeks after Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to provide relief to businesses and families hammered by the coronavirus lockdown, discussions are turning to another legislative package, which simply must address two urgent problems: Too many Americans don’t have access to banks, and they don’t have high-speed broadband. If they don’t get both soon, they will be in desperate straits.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use the $100 million provided for the ReConnect Program in the CARES Act to invest in qualified 100 percent grant projects that did not receive funding in the program’s first round of ReConnect Program investments. Round one applicants who did not receive funding because there was broadband access in the proposed service area may submit an application during the second round to receive this priority as long as their proposed service area meets the requirements of the ReConnect Round 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement.
As of April 13, 2020, school closures in the U. S. have impacted at least 124,000 public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students. Yet, millions of U.S. households either do not have access to broadband networks or can't afford service. Students in these homes are cut off from educational opportunities that schools are now offering online only. The question is: How can we continue to educate these students in the coming weeks and months? In an April 10 presentation to the Federal Communications Commission, an organization called Funds For Learning offered a plan.
Our years-long failure to ensure universal access to essential internet service means that millions of kids aren’t getting the same educational opportunity as their peers. Congress and the Trump administration can fix this in their next emergency response to the deadly pandemic — and they must.
In Phoenix (AZ), the digital divide is stark, despite a massive effort to get families connected to the Internet. So Chad Gestson, the superintendent of the high school district, and his team created an initiative called Every Student, Every Day: They pledged to call every student — there are about 28,000 of them — every day. "We certainly haven't abandoned the importance of the Internet and laptops and devices and online learning," Gestson explains. "We continue to push that. But we serve a large population of youth who don't have devices or connectivity in the house.
Many communities have thrown up their hands because there are no LTE hotspots to be found on the market (the supply delay is many months at this point) and because network construction seems like it could take years. It’s important to know that you have options to deploy new facilities – options that can be exercised in days or weeks, not years. Earlier, we shared some ideas for using fiber, mmWave, and Wi-Fi to get services to the unserved.
The industry's pre-coronavirus agenda isn't vanishing — but its priorities have already been reshuffled. These agenda items have jumped to the top of the list: 1) Transforming healthcare, 2) Distance learning and the digital divide, 3) Network bandwidth and resilience, and 4) Misinformation and media polarization.
Sen Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is urging the Federal Communications Commission to "immediately call on telecommunications providers serving law enforcement facilities across the nation to provide free phone calls & video visitations to better enable families to communicate with incarcerated loved ones during the #COVID19 pandemic.” Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made these calls and video visits free during the outbreak, state and local facilities may still charge exorbitant amounts for such communications services.
In Louisville (KY), most households have access to broadband and pay for a subscription, but neither is universal. The story of Louisville is one of identifying existing resources, building relationships, and continually planning for the next step. In 2017, Louisville released a Digital Inclusion Plan referring to “fiber deserts” in neighborhoods in west and southwest Louisville, which also have the city’s highest unemployment rates. The Digital Inclusion Plan identified lack of technology access and use as an issue that must be addressed.
Over the past month, healthcare providers from psychiatrists to family physicians have rushed to telemedicine through video conferencing or healthcare apps. Treating homebound patients virtually can soften the blow of an infectious disease outbreak like Covid-19, experts say, by reducing traffic to hospitals and doctor’s offices already struggling with limited resources and higher infection risks. It works the other way, too; telemedicine allows quarantined doctors to work from home.