Home > Uncategorized > Expansion of On-Line Work, On-Line Schooling and the Need for Economic Stimulus Is Golden Opportunity for Universal Broadband

Expansion of On-Line Work, On-Line Schooling and the Need for Economic Stimulus Is Golden Opportunity for Universal Broadband

March 14, 2020

As noted in yesterday’s post, more and more schools are being cancelled and more and more employers are asking their staff members to work from home. The consequence of this will undoubtedly be extreme stress on our existing internet systems and more evidence of the existing inequities in the provision of services.

I read in today’s NYTimes that the House passed a de facto economic stimulus bill in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.The bill provides “…two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for those affected by the crisis” and a slew of small bore items that will serve as a bandage for the work missed and revenues lost due to the pandemic. I fear that neither party saw the golden opportunity that lay before them: the chance to use this crisis as an opportunity to provide broadband to every citizen in the nation so that every citizen could access work and learning from their home.

But, as Common Cause noted in a press release yesterday, the FCC could take some immediate actions that would help… especially for those children who lack broadband access!

“Despite its limited authority, the FCC can and should do more to fully address broadband connectivity needs during this pandemic. The FCC can use its universal service authority to ensure existing programs designed to connect communities to broadband are fully utilized. For example, the Lifeline program connects eligible low-income households to affordable communications services. However, millions of eligible low-income households remain unenrolled. The FCC can take action to ensure all eligible low-income households are enrolled in the program. Further, millions of students lack a broadband connection at home. As Commissioner Rosenworcel has repeatedly stated, the ‘homework gap’ puts students without home broadband at a significant disadvantage. The FCC could address this by expanding its E-rate program to families with students that don’t have a broadband connection at home. The FCC must also address telehealth services so Americans can adequately connect to hospitals and other medical services.

The President touted on-line health services in his address and governors who have mandated school closures across the country all claim that on-line programs will offset the time lost in school. As readers of this blog know, that is only the case in homes with broadband… and those who cannot afford groceries are unlikely to have broadband… and those who live in remote rural outposts will be similarly challenged. We all have access to electricity and (as of now) clean water and indoor plumbing… The Covid 19 outbreak is helping us see that we should all have the same level of access to telecommunications.

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