High-speed internet serves as the backbone of our economy in New England. Broadband providers throughout New England have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that families and businesses stay connected and online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with our members’ networks meeting and exceeding the increased demand for service.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced tens of millions of Americans to work and learn from the safety of their homes beginning in March 2020, broadband networks provided a critical lifeline that kept our economy moving, students engaged and families connected. Over 78 million homes and businesses rely on the broadband service delivered by cable providers, and these networks met the traffic surge and biggest stress test that the internet has ever faced.
Meeting the challenge that the pandemic placed on broadband networks was helped by years of continued investment and upgrading of networks to stay ahead of consumer demand, including offering gigabit speeds to 85% of American homes. As the pandemic set in, broadband providers worked around the clock to monitor demands placed on the network, add capacity where needed and do whatever was necessary to keep everyone connected.
NECTA member companies all signed the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” to ensure that their customers retained access to high-speed internet. They pledged not to terminate service for customers unable to pay their bills and waived their late fees.
Private broadband providers also opened tens of thousands of WiFi hotspots throughout New England for anyone to use, giving thousands of residents access to fast and reliable internet to help them work, learn and shop.
NECTA members also donated thousands of laptops to low-income students throughout New England.
Since the onset of the pandemic, member companies expanded existing low-cost broadband plans to ensure high-speed internet access for individuals and families who need it most, including low-income families and those with students taking classes from home. To learn more about these programs and how NECTA members are closing the digital divide, click here.
To learn more about the industry’s response to COVID-19, click here.
Examples of COVID-Emergency Programs
Connecticut’s Everybody Learns Initiative
One example where New England policymakers and internet service providers led the way to get and keep more people connected to the internet, was the first-of-its-kind “Everybody Learns” initiative.
In the wake of school closures provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a groundbreaking public-private partnership emerged to connect students in Connecticut. Across the state, thousands of students struggled to “learn from home” without a broadband connection. While internet service providers had quickly kicked into action, both the public and private sectors knew that more needed to be done. By coming together, broadband companies and the state of Connecticut were able to leverage their collective expertise to get those students online in time for the Fall 2020 semester.
On July 28, 2020, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont launched “Everybody Learns” with each NECTA member on board and participating. The $43.5 million public-private partnership was designed to expand connectivity and offer low- and no-cost broadband options, as well as technology, to Connecticut students in preparation for a remote or hybrid 2020 school year.
The collaboration between the state and the internet providers was key both in accelerating the connection process and extending its reach at a crucial time. The state, using CARES Act funds, agreed to cover the first year of low-cost broadband service for qualifying student families. The state and its partners also managed outreach to school districts, who then provided internet provider partners with the addresses of student households that did not have a home internet connection.
In Connecticut, NECTA members who participated in the Everybody Learns program, including Breezeline, Charter, Comcast and Cox Communications would not have been able to reach the vast number of families without the public-private partnership. While partnerships like “Everybody Learns” have emerged across the U.S. at city and district levels, Connecticut was a leading state to push for connectivity statewide.
Mass Internet Connect
In January 2021, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and MassHire announced an innovative approach to meet the needs of the unemployed who were confronting technology barriers to access and effectively use the internet. The $9 million public-private partnership program with NECTA members Comcast and Charter provides job seekers in approximately 10,000 households with subsidized internet service, internet-capable devices like Chromebooks and training in online job searches. The initiative is available now to those working with MassHires’s 29 one-stop career centers including MassHire Holyoke, MassHire Springfield, MassHire Hampshire Franklin in Greenfield, MassHire Brockton, MassHire Cape and Islands in Hyannis, MassHire Merrimack Valley in Lawrence, MassHire Pittsfield and MassHire Worcester. The MIC program has been extended through December 31, 2022 for unemployed job seekers that satisfy program requirements.
To learn more about the Mass Internet Connect program, click here.