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Coronavirus Roundup: Vermont Bridges Broadband, Facebook in Developing Countries, Slower Global Internet Speeds

Elijah Labby

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Photo of rural Vermont by Putneypics used with permission

May 7, 2020 — The Vermont Department of Public Service has introduced a plan intended to completely bridge broadband gaps in the state.

By spending about $300 million, dependent on additional federal aid, the plan hopes to provide high-speed internet to almost a quarter of the state that does not currently have it. The amount of public funding required depends on the method of disbursement and could range from $120 million to $293 million.

The state’s emergency broadband action plan aims to connect the unconnected to broadband, and defines “unconnected” as anyone without access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) up /3 Mbps down.

The new Vermont funding program aims to receive an additional infusion of federal aid to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also proposes using a reverse auction model to achieve universal broadband in comparatively short order.

Facebook app provides free data for developing countries

A new app from Facebook aims to provide free data to users in areas where broadband access is not widespread, The Verge reports.

The app, called Discover, partners with mobile data providers to give users free daily data for low bandwidth browsing. Users in countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Iraq can utilize this data for text-based web browsing such as BBC News, Wikipedia, Bing and modified versions of Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook has attempted to provide similar services to developing countries in the past and has run into legal trouble for appearing to favor certain internet services. Discover, however, does not operate in the same way, and may be able to dodge such concerns.

BroadbandNow reports slower worldwide download and upload speeds

BroadbandNow Research found that more than half of the 138 countries it analyzed reported slower average upload and download speeds in a recent study.

Seventy-two of the countries, notably including Italy and Hong Kong, experienced significantly slower internet speeds. In the case of Hong Kong, increased usage crippled upload and download speeds by declines over 40 percent.

Out of the top ten countries by population, the U.S. was the only one that did not report decreased download speeds, on average.

As some countries begin to recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, their broadband speeds show signs of recovering as well. “China’s speeds have begun to climb again,” the report said, “and Italy has leveled off.”

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