CTF: Possibility of New COVID Lockdowns Raise Urgency on Broadband Fix

December 6, 2021

Broadband advocates at Connect the Future (CTF) today expressed urgent concerns about progress in closing the digital divide following reports on the spread of a new COVID-19 variant dubbed Omicron, which has now been detected in at least 17 states.

The 2020 lockdowns related to the COVID-19 outbreak highlighted the critical value and importance of connectivity for participation in our increasingly digital society. Whether it’s access to work, education, healthcare or civic engagement, high-speed broadband plays a vital role in how Americans can continue to participate and engage in the modern economy during a pandemic. 

DrFauci’s recent warning that Americans must stand ready for a new wave of lockdowns makes clear the need to ensure that rural communities aren’t forced back into isolation. Make no mistake, for unserved families, securing access to high-speed internet is a vital part of any effective emergency preparedness. 

Given the availability of unprecedented resources – $65 billion – to expand broadband access under the  Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it is vital that we quickly address any existing barriers and obstacles that would hinder or prevent implementation of funding needed to close the digital divide. At the top of that list is the outdated process for attaching broadband infrastructure to utility poles, which form the backbone of our telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural areas. More than 14 million Americans will remain without high-speed internet access if broadband providers continue to face costly delays and needless bureaucratic hurdles in order to install new equipment on poles. 

Experts agree that action is needed now, and policymakers must move quickly to update and clarify pole attachment rules to ensure timely access, fair cost-sharing, and expedited dispute resolution between pole owners and pole attachers. Read more about the economic impact of delayed broadband expansion due to pole attachment barriers in a new study released this December by CTF.