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Coronavirus Roundup: Gaps in Stimulus Package, AT&T on Wi-Fi Traffic, Market-Based Solutions to Digital Divide

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Harold Feld

March 23, 2020 – Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld takes issue with the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge—it does not help Americans who do not have broadband and 60 days of no late fees might not be long enough.

Feld argues that broadband access is the solution to keeping people connected, working, and at home.

Feld suggests that “as part of the coronavirus stimulus package, the United States government will cover everyone’s broadband bill for a basic connection capable of supporting two-way video.”

In his proposal, Internet Service Providers would provide broadband to “anyone who asks for it,” and in turn, receive a payment from the government per subscriber.

“To keep Americans home, we need everyone to have broadband,” writes Feld.

To hear Feld, plus Angela Siefer, Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance; Deleno Squires, Program Manager, Connect.DC - Digital Inclusion Initiative, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, District of Columbia; and Jeff Sural, Director, Broadband Infrastructure Office, North Carolina Department of Information Technology, tune into Broadband Breakfast Live Online: "Free and Low Cost Internet Plans During the Coronavirus Crisis" - What should ISPs be doing to ensure connectivity for all? at Monday, March 23, 2020, 12 Noon ET.

AT&T says Wi-Fi calling volumes up 100 percent

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said “Wi-Fi calling volumes are up 100 percent,” while Americans work and study at home during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Julia Alexander for The Verge.

In spite of the seemingly night and day shift from normal day-to-day living to home Wi-Fi dependent quarantines, Stephenson said the network is “performing quite well.”

To help during the crisis, AT&T “suspend[ed] data caps for broadband internet customers,” but not mobile data plans.

Consultant propose "utility-lease model" to address digital divide

The Broadband Group called the digital divide “cruel,” but TBG has a market-based solution.

Fiber broadband infrastructure is often not deployed due to costs and “barriers of entry” for new-player service providers.

Circumventing broadband buildout challenges, TBG created a Utility Lease Model that Huntsville, Alabama and Springfield, Missouri have already put in practice.

The Utility Lease Model bolsters Electric Utilities and Broadband Service Providers by aiding investments in “grid modernization needs,” evading barriers to entry by leasing fiber, generating profit, and setting up the future deployment of 5G and smart cities.

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