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Coronavirus Roundup: Global Internet Speeds, Jill Biden on Tele-education, Billions for Broadband from HEROES Act

David Jelke

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Photo of Rep. Frank Pallone by New America used with permission

Ookla Speedtest, a broadband data aggregator, released a dashboard showing the changes in broadband speeds in every country across the world since March 2, 2020.

The dashboard, which shows both fixed and mobile broadband speeds, contains some surprises. The country with the greatest fixed speed change was Lebanon, with an 88 percent increase.

The country with the greatest change in mobile speed was the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, with an increase of 89 percent. The greatest loss in either kind of speed was found in Sri Lanka, with a decrease in mobile speed of 37 percent.

While there are some aberrations, the data indicate that despite the seeming all-consuming damage of the coronavirus pandemic, broadband speeds worldwide have increased.

Jill Biden talks tele-education

Jill Biden “dropped in” to a Pittsburgh high school’s AP English class to hear from teachers and students about the trials of tele-education. The virtual visit was one of many that the former Second Lady has made recently as she remotely campaigns for her husband across the country.

Biden, herself a professor of English for 30 years, asked students about the struggles they’ve faced in tele-education. Administrators of the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy said that because the curriculum is focused on STEM, the school was able to pivot to a tele-education environment rather quickly.

Meanwhile, students praised software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for sustaining their education and keeping them accountable by allowing them to meet with teachers during office hours.

One student credited Zoom with helping her keep in touch with her group of friends, and another vocalized her gratitude that this pandemic occurred today and not 30 years ago when the country would not have had the technology to make distance learning work.

HEROES Act would provide billions in broadband funding

Congress introduced the HEROES Act in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, which includes a provision infusing billions of dollars into broadband benefit programs.

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Penn., applauded the introduction of the bill.

“This bill keeps all of our kids safe and digitally connected, providing $1.5 billion immediately for online distance learning,” Pallone and Doyle said.  “It also provides much-needed support to struggling families, those who are low-income or have someone in the family who has been furloughed or laid off, by providing them a monthly credit of up to $50 on their internet service bills.”

Non-profit public interest group Public Knowledge also praised the move.

“We commend House Democrats for leading the charge to help everyone get or stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Public Knowledge Senior Policy Counsel Jenna Leventoff said. “Although connectivity was critical before this pandemic, it is particularly critical when most Americans are being told to stay at home.”

However, some felt that the provision should have gone farther, including the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

"By introducing the HEROES Act, House Democrats show that they recognize the vital importance of connecting people they serve to affordable broadband during and after the COVID-19 health crisis,” SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen said. “But the legislation does not provide sufficient funding for schools, libraries, and healthcare providers to address the school closures, health crises, and economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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