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FCC Policy Advisor Evan Swarztrauber Says Internet Holding Up to Demands for Broadband Connectivity Under Coronavirus

David Jelke



Photo of Evan Swarztrauber (left) courtesy Wireless Estimator

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2020 – In term of impact on broadband connectivity, “Covid-19 doesn’t even compare to the Superbowl or series finale of Game of Thrones,” said Federal Communications Commission Advisor Evan Swarztrauber during a Tuesday webinar hosted by Recon Analytics Inc.

In other words, we’re in a “so far, so good” moment: The internet seems to be balancing increased bandwidth demand with supply.

Swarztrauber, policy advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, added that more extreme measures to manage internet connectivity are “not necessary at this time,” praising this outcome as “a testament to the strength of the U.S. broadband networks.”

Swartzrauber also announced that the FCC’s auctions for the 3.5 GigaHertz (GHz) and the C-Bands “are still going to happen when they were scheduled to happen,” he said.

“For now those auctions are continuing” on June and December, respectively.

(See Editor’s Note, below, and “FCC Delays Auction of Citizens Broadband Radio Service Frequences in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic from Coronavirus.”)

Broadband Breakfast has reported on the extreme uptick in broadband consumption, which in some contexts has doubled as quarantining families flock to services like streaming, gaming, and Zoom.

But experts have disagreed as to the readiness of the internet infrastructure during a pandemic. However, speakers at the Recon Analytics webinar echoed Swarztrauber’s sentiments.

“The networks are holding up really, really well,” said Jeffrey Moore, Principal of Wave7 Research and another participant on the call.

Wave7 is “dedicated to giving its clients an in-depth knowledge of what is going on in the U.S. wireless market,” according to the company website. “There’s nothing that we’ve seen so far” regarding the failure of broadband networks, Moore concluded.

Panelists also offered surprising statistics on telecom in the context of coronavirus. The demand curve for smartphone devices is “way, way down, with the sole exception of folding phones,” said Avi Greengart, lead analyst of Techspotential.

Therefore, he said, it would be very easy and cheap for Americans to acquire a smartphone now relative to pre-coronavirus times.

Greengart said that the Chinese manufacturing giants are coming back online, meaning that so is 80 to 90 percent of Apple’s manufacturing power.

Regarding telecommunications flagship stores such as AT&T and T-Mobile, Moore said the companies are trying to ensure that “at least one store is open in every market.” Even the one T-Mobile store in Helena, Montana will be remaining open to fulfill this strategy, he said.

Editor’s Note: Although Swarztrauber is correctly quoted in this story about a Tuesday event, Swartztrauber rejoined the call later to clarify that the FCC had “no news to share on auctions at this time.” On Wednesday, the FCC announced a postponement of the CBRS auction for one month. See “FCC Delays Auction of Citizens Broadband Radio Service Frequences in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic from Coronavirus.”



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