Relief package includes $7 billion for broadband investments
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

As part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that was struck by Congress on Sunday, $7 billion was allocated to establishing greater broadband internet access across the United States, helping bridge connectivity gaps that have become glaring as lockdowns kept families and workers home throughout 2020.

Part of the relief includes $3.2 billion for a $50-per-month emergency broadband benefit for Americans that were laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, $1 billion in Tribal broadband grants, and $250 million toward telehealth and telemedicine, according to Axios.

Perhaps most critical to the long-term prospects of improving nationwide Internet access, $65 million has been allocated to improving broadband mapping by the FCC, which has been a point of criticism among ISPs for painting too broad a picture of broadband access: In the past, a county with just a single broadband-connected household in that census block would be considered served and connected, even if no other homes or residents were linked up.

With new funding, the FCC will reevaluate and refocus their mission in ensuring the country’s broadband infrastructure doesn’t continue to widen the nation’s digital divide.

“Broadband connections are essential for Americans seeking to get new jobs, and to access school, health care and other government services,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a statement Sunday night. “Ensuring working families can stay online will pay massive dividends for kids’ education, helping people find jobs and jump starting the economic recovery next year.”

Broadband critical for telehealth, education and jobs

The importance of connectivity to securing a job can’t be emphasized enough. Pre-pandemic, Research by the Council of Economic Advisers showed that unemployed workers in households with Internet had a 19 percent chance of finding employment within one month, whereas unemployed workers in households without Internet had a 15 percent chance. Over a one-year period, these numbers jumped to 46 percent versus 34 percent, respectively, in the report that predates the current administration and lockdown lifestyle the nation’s workforce has adopted of late.

Today, it’s not just about leveraging the Internet to connect workers to new opportunities, as these new investments will also help ensure access for students that have been forced to log onto digital classrooms, for instance, and that patients who require non-emergency care can still seek treatment.

The expansion of telehealth services is among the few bright spots of recent world events, as healthcare providers have made it easier for a wider swath of non-emergency medical visits to take place virtually, while in-person treatment has been largely reserved for COVID-19 response. In fact, estimates show that spend on virtual visits from federal and commercial payers will rise from $3 billion in 2019 to more than $250 billion in 2020, as an executive order was signed back in August that’s viewed as a big vote of confidence in the long-term efficacy of telehealth on the federal level.

Poor connectivity hinders remote workforce

But even for workers who have remained employed throughout the pandemic, optimal network connectivity has hardly been a given, as workers aren’t privy to the same SLA-backed, commercial-grade broadband access at home that they were used to in the office. This is compounded by the fact that there’s a lot more competition in the home from non-busess related tools for network capacity among an increasingly finite amount of upload and download speeds within a residential setting.

As a result, broadband providers like Comcast are exploring ways to deliver enterprise-caliber Internet speeds out to residences without the infusion of federal funds (though this latest stimulus is sure to help accelerate progress). On October 8, Comcast announced that it had made a big step toward this goal, having achieved 1.25Gbps upload and download speeds over a live production network by leveraging Network Function Virtualization (NFV) combined with the latest latest Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) hardware.

When we at AppNeta closed our offices back in March, we found that not only are most of our users’ residential ISP offerings way off the capacity levels they’re used to experiencing in-office, they’re not even getting the full download and upload speeds that they’ve contracted for.

This last mile between the enterprise network edge and a user’s residential workstation is where the bulk of performance issues arise in the WFH era, as reported by our own network management team and our enterprise customers. And while IT teams may not own, manage, or really control those residential “last-miles,” they can still gain visibility into how that connection is performing to help resolve issues before they ripple across departments.

In our recent webinar, 3 Ways to Make IT More Efficient, we get into the details of how teams can speed up MTTR in the WFH era by leveraging strategies that help IT scale their monitoring to the needs of their WFH users. Watch the video today so that you can start mapping out a better strategy for network management going forward.

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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: work from anywhere , work from home , remote workforce , remote workers , remote work , telehealth , comcast , residential ISP , residential internet , internet connectivity , broadband connectivity , broadband internet , broadband , congress , relief package , relief , stimulus