Stay-At-Home Dulls Internet Service and Online School Leaves Kids without Connectivity Behind

Bloomberg Businessweek March 30, 2020 pp19-21 Technology “Broadband’s Big Breakdown” “This was supposed to be the year of superfast wireless 5G. Instead, providers are battling to keep the creaky old internet online”


Information not in the article but from

As of July 2019, 60% of home internet speed was Superfast/fibre (50-75Mbps up to 300Mbps), 36% Regular (<31Mbps) and 4% unknown.


“The Digital Divide” is have and have not and have but not sufficient. More than 20 million American homes don’t have broadband per the FCC and if you are less affluent, and have some access, you are essentially stuck on the internet surface street rather than the internet superhighway. Of households having a median income less than $50,000/year 30-40% have broadband. The percent with broadband (Superfast) increases with median income to more than 60% in households with median income greater than $80,000/year. By state Mississippi is <30%, Alaska 30-40%, Florida-Texas and New York 50-60% and California-Maryland at >60%. It is therefore estimated that “163 million Americans [aren’t] using high speed internet”.

In response to demands stemming from staying-at-home due to COVID-19, 2020 has been the year of maintaining internet service speed and not the year of increasing 5G installation. Faster “movie downloads, telemedicine, self-driving cars and more” will have to wait. As a result of lack of adequate broadband access, “Tens of millions of Americans don’t have access to reliable internet connectivity, or can’t afford it, and will have trouble communicating, working and attending classes online…”. To help cope with loss of cash flow, the FCC is recommending a “60 day grace period…[without] late fees or cut off service to people and small businesses…”. Due to prior resistance to utility-type regulation of the internet, the FCC is powerless to do more than recommend on what has become “critical services”.

“Price…[is partly why] home[s] go without” broadband. Dedicated use of only a smartphone is the other key factor. “…Some researchers found that students who rely on smartphones for homework often fall behind”. Are there existing programs that help level-the-playing-field for financially challenged households? Yes somewhat as "The Federal Lifeline Program" provides $9.25/month for “people poor enough to qualify for food stamps [to put] toward broadband or wireless internet service”. The FCC has also had some success in getting more spectrum for wireless providers and adjusting programs that subsidize service to schools and libraries. As many as “500 internet providers…pledge not to cut off service”.

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